07th Sep 2019

Ness and The Cattle Raid of Cooley now available as graphic novels!

Finally. The Cattle Raid of Cooley, my comics adaptation of the ancient Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, is available in a single volume. I serialised it on the web from 2008 to 2015, and sold it in print as ten comic book issues, but now, with minor revisions, it’s in the format it was always meant for: a 284-page oversize paperback, printed as it was drawn – in red ink.

Ness, the prequel, has been collected before as an A5 black and white volume. But I’m out of copies, so I’ve now reprinted it in the same oversize, red ink format as the Cattle Raid. Both are available to buy online from my Comicsy shop via the links to the right (or possibly below if you’re reading on your phone).

I have a table next Saturday, 14 September 2019, at the Omagh Comic Fest in the Strule Arts Centre, Omagh, where the books will be on sale in the real world for the first time. I hope you can make it.

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07th Sep 2019

Moggie Moggie Moggie! Out Out Out!

The memes have been amusing. I’ve had my own go at one…

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12th Aug 2019

Things are happening

A significant redesign for my website. My serialised webcomics have been taken down, because I’m on the verge of publishing them as collected editions.

My first Ulster Cycle comic, Ness, was serialised in 2007-2008. I wrote and drew it in an improvisational style, in red pen, no script, no pencils (here’s an old blog post on how I did it), but originally converted it to black and white to post it online, and published it as an A5 black and white graphic novel in 2008. The first print run sold out, and I reprinted it with a new cover in 2013.

That run’s now almost gone, so I’m going back to print. This time, though, it’s being printed in oversize (17.7 x 25 cm) format, and in red ink, as originally drawn.

In even bigger news, the follow-up, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, is being collected in a single 284-page volume. Starring the grandson of the heroine of Ness, it’s an adaptation of the ancient Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge. I serialised that (in red) between 2008 and 2015, and have been printing it as a series of ten comics since then. Keeping those issues in print has been a bit of a struggle, and I figure it’s about time I published it in in a more manageable format.

I’ve created my own publishing imprint, Beetletongue Books, for these books. More news to follow.

Elsewhere, I’m continuing to work with writer Mark McCann on short strips for Belfast’s 2000AD fanzine, Sector 13 – and we potentially have something longer in the works. More news to follow on that front as well.

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24th Dec 2018

William Drennan (1795-1873), a sketch

What St. Anne’s looked like in the early 19th century Engraving by John Thomson from George Benn’s 1823 History of Belfast

My four-times-great grandfather, William Drennan, was baptised as a foundling at St. Anne’s Parish Church (now Cathedral), Belfast, on 11 October 1795. How foundlings are given their names I don’t really know, but there was a William Drennan in the news around that time – a founder of the United Irishmen, son of a Presbyterian minister from Belfast, and coiner of the term “emerald isle”, who had been arrested for seditious libel in 1794 (and later acquitted). It seems odd that a foundling baptised in the Church of Ireland might be named after a leading dissenter, but who knows who chose the name and where their sympathies lay.

He married Ellen Meehan, or McMahon – transcripts vary. They had a son, David, baptised in St Annes in 1820. Another son, John, must have been born sometime before 1825 based on his marriage record. A daughter, my three-times-great grandmother Jane, was baptised at St Annes in 1826. A son, William, based on his marriage record, must have been born c. 1830-31. There may have been others, but I have found no record of them.

Jane must married my three-times-great grandfather William Magill by 1844, when their son James was born, but I have found no record of their marriage. John married Mary Ann Gaw at St Anne’s in 1846, and I finally find out William’s occupation: cotton spinner.

His wife Ellen must have died before 1849, as William, a widow, married his daughter-in-law’s sister Susan Gaw that year. His age is given as 44, although this is an underestimate – based on his baptism record, he was actually 54. He names his father as William Drennan, labourer, but it’s not unheard of for fatherless children to invent fathers for their marriage certificates. His occupation was again cotton-spinner, and his address was Lepper’s Row, Belfast. Lepper’s Row was later known as Lepper Street, off the New Lodge Road in north Belfast, built as housing for workers at the Lodge Cotton Mill, owned by the Lepper family.

William junior, also a cotton spinner, married Catherine McBurney in 1852. His address was New Lodge Road.

Lepper Street first appears in the Belfast Street Directories in 1858. It is off the New Lodge Road, and contains the Lodge Cotton Mill (Mssrs. Lepper, proprietors), and the Lodge Mill National School (closed at present). G. Faulkner, grocer and haberdasher, is at No. 70, and “The rest occupied by mill-workers”. The same applies in 1863, except the school is now open and run by a teacher called James Weir, and the grocer and haberdasher’s shop is at No. 76 and run by Agnes Faulkener.

In 1865 the occupants are named. Wm. Brennan (sic), cotton spinner, is at No. 91. In 1870 there is a William Drennan, fireman, at No. 83, and a William Drennan, spinner, at No. 95.

William died of paralysis at 83 Lepper Street, Belfast on 28 July 1873. His occupation was cotton spinner and his age is given as 60, again an underestimate – he was actually 78. He was married, so Susan was still alive. His daughter-in-law Catherine was present at his death.

Line of descent from William to me.

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16th Dec 2018

From Hell – now in colour!

You may or may not be aware – there doesn’t seem to have been much publicity, especially compared to Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old – but Eddie Campbell is colourising From Hell, the monstrous graphic novel he did between 1989 and 1998 with Alan Moore, for the Kindle. Two installements of the From Hell “Master Edition” are currently available from Amazon, containing the prologue and first four chapters.

Chapter 4, page 9. Not much has changed, but suddenly this panel is awash with sunlight.

This doesn’t sound like something that would work – Campbell’s art on From Hell is very black-and-white, and evokes a very sooty and grimy Victorian London. But it does.

Chapter 4 page 12: colour creates both sunlight and depth.

Campbell’s colouring, like his art, is rough and ready in places, but that’s always been part of the charm of his work. It’s subtle and fairly simple – he lays down flat areas of colour, and rarely does any kind of modelling with it. But, combined with tweaks to the line art and occasional outright redrawing, it’s remarkably effective in creating a sense of place. Where black-and-white Victorian London was a distant, alien setting observed from afar, coloured-in Victorian London is a place you can imagine yourself into.

Chapter 4 page 14: simple, flat colour creates more space.

And in chapter four, the tour of London chapter, Campbell pays particular attention to time of day. The chapter starts before dawn with washed-out colours. As the sun rised, the colours become brighter and more contrasting. A shower of rain, and things become oppressive and grey, and as the rain stops, the colours become cold and washed-out again, before darkening as evening draws in.

Chapter 4 page 15: same again.

I wasn’t expecting it to work, but it really does. Highly recommended – and gives me a few ideas…

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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.


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.


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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23rd Oct 2017

The Proposition Blues Band at the Sunflower

The Proposition Blues Band return to the Sunflower, Union Street, Belfast, Friday 10 November 2017, from 9pm, £5 in

My band, the Proposition Blues Band, play the Sunflower bar, Union Street, Belfast (map), on 10 November 2017, from 9pm, £5 in.

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19th Jan 2016

Jazzabelles are Go: for real!

You may remember that in the summer I was in a couple of rehearsed readings of an original musical, The Jazzabelles by Nick Boyle. It’s about three women in 1950s Belfast who overcome adversity to become a jazz singing trio. I played their manager, had a couple of songs, and also designed the poster. Well, the Kickstarter campaign was successful, and the full show is about to go on the road. My part has been recast, but I’m still in it in a smaller role.

The dates are:

  • Thursday 11 February, 8pm: Strule Arts Centre, Omagh (book tickets – £10 full price, £8 concession)
  • Friday 12 February, 7.30pm: The Old Courthouse Theatre, Antrim (book tickets – £10 full price, £8 concession)
  • Saturday 13 February, 8pm: Island Arts Centre, Lisburn (book tickets – £12 full price, £10 concession)
  • Friday 19 February, 8pm: Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick (£12 full price, £10 concession)
  • Saturday 20 February, 8pm: Market Place Theatre, Armagh (book tickets – £10)

Keep it FreeHere’s “Keep it Free” recorded live with The Jazzabelles trio and band! Live shows touring in February! The video’s from a steamy noir called club Paradise.

Posted by The Jazzabelles Musical on Monday, January 18, 2016

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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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04th Jul 2015

Jazzabelles are Go!

The Jazzabelles

The Jazzabelles, the musical I’m in, made its triumphant debut with a rehearsed reading last night at the South Bank Playhouse on Kimberley Drive, off Sunnyside Street in Belfast. There’s a second performance tonight at 8pm.

Above is my rendition of the three heroines, Ella (Claire McCartney), Prissy (Beccy Henderson) and Vera (Sam McMillan). Done with digitally-simulated manual colour separations – click the image if you’re interested in the process.

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