A new painting, using an old canvas. Underneath that is about a half-dozen failed attempts so this is the last chance before it gets binned. So far so good though. I’ve now got most of the base blacks on, and I can clearly visualise it in its finished state. I’ve also got a title for it, and usually when I have a good title at this early stage, it’s a good sign that it’s all going to work out.
A year ago, I collaborated with my old comix partner Noel K. Hannan to publish a 25th Anniversary Edition of our 1990’s comix series Streetmeat. Throughout the 1990’s I was fully committed to “making it” as a comix artist, and went at it with the kind of demonic fervour and commitment that I can now only look back and marvel at. Over a hundred fully pencilled and inked comix pages, plus covers, short stories and a whole slew of illustrations, all completed in about two years, and all on top of a full-time job. Achieved without the aid of amphetamines or any other artificial stimulants, because I didn’t need them. I was high on my own supply. As I prepared this new new edition, I rescanned all the original artwork and digitally remastered it, cleaning up all the inks that had now faded, and adding a few new panels to improve on mistakes made back in the day. During that laborious process I was looking back at what I’d drawn and despite my frustrations at the time that it was never as good as what I wanted it to be, I was now seeing it through older and wiser (“that’s what you think,” says a voice and, as usual, I don’t listen to it) eyes and could see all the energy and passion I’d pored into it. After completing Streetmeat and it’s spin-off title Solo in 1997, “reality” intruded and life changed radically. I moved south, we both had kids, and Noel and I slowly drifted apart. But this book as a definitive edition of everything we had done always felt like unfinished business to me, so when in 2014 Noel first proposed a 20th Anniversary Edition I surprised him by saying “yes.” Ok, it took another 5 years to get the book done, but that allowed me the time to really do the book justice. I added 20 pages of entirely new material, detailing how the sequels we’d always proposed could have turned out, and drew a brand new 4-page strip especially for this edition. I handled all the graphics and book design, and the end result was something that felt justified and long overdue. Here’s some sample pages:
Rear cover. It’s weird that Nigel Dobbyn, whose generous quote graces the back cover, died just as I was finishing the book
Sample page from the Sequels section. This is a character from MeatEater, the first sequel, set in Moscow in 2022. It would have been wild, I promise.
Another page from the Sequels section. This is from Meat Grinder, the follow-up to MeatEater. This would have been even crazier.
This is the first page of the new strip I wrote & drew especially for the Special Edition.
This is an illustration I made last year when the book was featured in Comics Scene magazine. The original drawing was offered as a freebie to readers. So far, no takers.
It’s been an interesting experience to go back to something you’d long thought you were done with. It makes you re-evaluate a lot of things. I’m a better artist now than I was back then, but what’s been lost along the way is the intense burning drive to create and the time in which to do it. I think it’s that burn I miss most of all.
Anyway, you can acquire the book in two formats:
Free e-book edition (300 MB)
Hard copy printed edition (£8 & shipping)
When common objects in this way be come charged with the suggestion of horror, they stimulate the imagination far more than things of unusual appearance.
Algernon Blackwood, The Willows
This mock-up is an oddity, composed from part of a 2017 drawing and, buried deeply, a remnant of a really old painting that was made probably twenty years ago and long lost to me now. The aim was to give it the feel of those great paperback covers of the 1960’s, but with a contemporary twist. I’ll leave others to decide whether or not it was successful.
It’s a madhouse, of course. A complete, utter madhouse. I only hope to God it remains one.
Paul Bowles, Let It Come Down
My lifelong disquiet about the fantasy of the jaded Western world aesthete using exotic locales as a mirror through which to measure the degradation of his own soul – before its too late – had to be forcibly set aside in order for me to tackle Bowles. An interesting bloke, the outrider who opened up Tangier (and the possible delights therein) to the likes of the American literary set and, in their wake, the Beats. Capote, Vidal, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Gysin – they all came, got high, got laid, and buggered off. but Bowles lived there for the rest of his life, or at least in the summer months. Winters he went to his own island off the coast of Sri Lanka. How many writers these days own their own island? Anyway, I found this long-lost drawing in my archives, drawn over ten years ago, and it seemed perfectly suited to this subject.
If an artist is really doing their job properly (and we can all think of examples of whose who aren’t), then for all the work they’re known for, there’s just as large of a body of work behind them that never sees light of day. For one reason or another, projects never get finished, derailed by circumstances often beyond the control of those involved. I’ve got a vast cemetery of dead projects in my wake, some of which I killed myself, and some of which lie in a state of suspended animation, waiting for the day when they might get realised. Volgo is one of those projects. I came up with the idea several years ago. I follow the Stephen King example of not writing my ideas down and in that way, the ones you don’t forget are the ones you are probably going to have to do something about. Volgo is one of those ideas. It’s a WWII horror story that collides a boyhood spent reading Warlord, Victor and Battle, my teenage years as an avid horror fiction reader, and my adult exposure to films like Come And See. I won’t say much about the story, except that it’s set during the siege of Stalingrad and includes vampirism and other variations on the ‘undead’. Absolutely non-stop mayhem and madness. About 18 months ago I worked up some character studies and concept images, with a view to one day turning it into a graphic novel, with a script written by my old collaborator Noel K. Hannan.
Here’s a few examples, and have fun recognising the reference sources used:
It’s not gone any further because I simply do not have the time to draw it. Trying to do a 100-page comic strip on top of a day job is a monumental task. I did it more than once during my twenties but at my age you just can’t pull all-nighters and then go to work the next day. So it will probably never happen, but I can easily see it adapted into a film/TV series and in the right hands (and to me that means peak-era Walter Hill or John Carpenter) it would be, as they say, a “blast.”
Like many an internet “phenomenon”, the ‘watchalong’ is the kind of thing I hear about, shake my head at, and then move on to something else, but in the case of Withnail & I – my all-time favourite film – I’ll make an exception. Earlier this month the film’s writer and director – Bruce Robinson – did a ‘watchalong’ for the film he wrote and directed in the mid-1980’s. A film that quickly earnt its cult status (back when there was still such a thing as a ‘cult film’) and justifies it’s reputation to this day. I’ve talked about the film a lot over the years, so I won’t repeat myself, but will say that if you’ve not seen it yet, you may be missing out on something important.
Here’s portraits of the four main characters from the film, original drawings I sold as a set a while back: