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I am so, SO flipping excited to announce that my book Fish-Head Steve has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2013! And as far as I know, it's the first time a comic book has been shortlisted for the prize! DOUBLE WHAMMY!

I'm in the 'funniest book for children aged 7 - 14' category against five other books (all of which look to be STRONG competition). You can read more about the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and what it means HERE www.booktrust.org.uk/prizes/4, winners are chosen by a panel of judges and 200 schoolchildren in December I believe.

Just being shortlisted is an AMAZING honour, and I'm dead chuffed about it all. A million thank yous to everyone on The DFC (Ben and Will especially), everyone at David Fickling Books, Jodie my agent, and everyone who's ever read Fish-Head Steve.

Here's to comics, fish-heads, and funny books! Keep your fingers crossed! ^_^
HELLO YOU

I've spent most of January working on things which don't pay any money, but needed doing. It's all felt quite luxurious, frankly. I've not been getting up at silly o'clock every morning, been taking a day off here and there, and just ploughed through a ton of work without needing to show it to anyone. What it's all for i can hopefully reveal later in the year. But it's done me a load of good, mentally. November and December i took on too much, and burnt myself out completely. So I feel refreshed, calm, bit skint, and ready to get back into the schedule.

One thing which has always niggled me though is that no matter how many different comics i work on (and i count myself extraordinarily lucky to, make no mistake), there are always more i want to do. Characters I don't have time to work up. Stories which sit in my brain for years. Sometimes I get the chance to work them up into pitches for TV companies, which sometimes get signed up, and then usually end up buried and locked in copyright, which is no use to anyone. What I want to do is start parading these ideas around myself.

So every month this year, I'm going to try and take a few days out to introduce a new character.

This may take the form of a new mini website, or a comic story, or whatever. Just some way to add flesh to the ideas in my head. One of my personal gripes is that I've never had the concentration to stick to one thing at a time - if I'd spent the last five years drawing Whubble strips constantly maybe I could have made a career out of him, for example, but I'm always too keen to work on the NEXT idea. So, I figure, why not give into it, and put my efforts into creating a long list of characters rather than devoting my life to any one. I've loved doing this so far, with Bear, Chaffy and Bunny vs. Monkey (to name a few) all sitting together on my site. Making a family, a roster, of characters is a buzz for me.

One of the main reasons for doing this, apart from the need to just get them out of my brain, is to claim them as mine. Every artist knows the frustration of seeing a great new idea come out and thinking "ARGH. BALLS. I had that exact same idea and they beat me to it!". Y'know, I'm tired of feeling like that. So by making these characters real, I can at least prove I'm not just saying 'i had that idea too!' in retrospect to any that may come along. I know some artists aren't keen on giving their ideas away online, which is understandable, but personally i think it's a real playground to explore and develop characters, see if there's any positive reaction to them, and even (possibly) grab the attention of a publisher.

So, that's the plan. While I may use some months to explore existing characters (I always fancied drawing a more child-friendly Ubu Bubu, or maybe even making some Find Chaffy comics), for the most part they'll be new characters I'm working on. I'll be keen to see the reaction, and if it's positive, I'll try and carry them on. Also, hopefully, it might make some room in my brain, because at the moment it's a bit full.

The reason I'm writing this into a blog is to force myself to do it. So please, hassle me if you see me slacking off this year.
My good friend Colin at the horror movie website zombiehamster.com (warning: horror, obvs) pointed me towards a new thinking some film companies are adopting, that is to release their films on DVD, or even better, stream them, at the same time as releasing them in the cinema. As an attempt to curb piracy, it's an admirable one of course, and very long overdue. More than long overdue, blindingly obvious. Those who want to see a film legally, but can't get to a cinema (incidentally, film companies, 3D is a great way to stop people going to cinemas), have to wait nearly half a year to get the DVD, usually dodging internet spoilers like smug little pot-holes all along the road. It's no wonder so many people torrent. It's easy, and immediate. And while it perhaps takes the uniqueness out of a film when it's stacked up in a queue to watch, I do genuinely believe most people, having watched a film they enjoy, would recompense those responsible were there an effective, and sensible, way of doing it. Which there isn't.

To reiterate, I believe people like to reward the artists who entertain them.

This has been the biggest ignorance of record companies ever since they were forced to look into digital by the runaway success of the (then illegal) Napster. It was beyond absurd they were complaining that people were downloading albums for free, when for decades they had charged ridiculous amounts, sloughed the profits away from the artists, and then treated fans like hardened criminals in their punishment. Lets be sure about this, I'm not condoning acts like illegal downloading. But to be so grossly indignant about the world embracing A New Way Of Doing Things just because it didn't line the record company pockets was laughable, and worse, backwards. If something is obviously happening, far better to incorporate it and evolve.

Now we're at a place where everyone is finding their feet, and testing the boundaries. Movies are perhaps beginning to learn the lessons of musicians, some of whom release albums for free, or using a pay-what-you-want system, embracing this beautiful internet and the obvious demand for their products to create a more natural symbiosis. Kickstarters, Indiegogos and all the crowdfunders are pushing this idea further along, where the audience is actively helping create the product. When crowdfunding fatigue kicks in, which may not be far away, I hope it'll evolve into a more flowing business practice, enabling artists to directly connect and be supported by their audience on an ongoing basis.

And so, to comics. All the aforementioned is a fascinating path to watch unfold, but realistically, we all have to earn money somewhere. And it's hard doing that online. It's practically impossible. If you want to give away your comics for free to the internet, the old way of recouping it was to put a 'donate' button on your site, and every now and then blog about how your wall had fallen down and could everyone spare just two dollars. And 9 times out of 10, no one would click that 'donate' button. It became a stigma, a piece of stinky cheese you kept walking past but never dared touch. While I said before that people want to reward the artists they like, i think perhaps the Donate button has run out of steam. Now artists are trying crowdfunding, with varying levels of success, but I wonder if we need to go full rogue. I wonder if we need to go completely free.

Now, I know, if you're a comic artist or even a reader, your hair probably stood on end at that idea. So let me say, I'm throwing it out there as a notion. I'm asking a question. Since we're all treading water waiting for the internet to throw us a speedboat and answer the 'how DO we make money anymore?' question, why not entertain other ideas.

The thinking is this. When I posted up about my ideas for A New Comic a few weeks back, I was stunned by the response. The goodwill. But since then I've thought about it a lot more, worked through the idea in my head, the practicalities and pitfalls. And I keep coming back to one part of it I liked the very most – making a comic, a real comic, not just on the internet, and giving it away. To schools. To hospitals. Leaving it on a train for the next person to read. Including it in a daily newspaper. Leaving it on the front desk of a toy shop (excellent suggestion by a commenter on the previous post). Encouraging people to read our comic, enjoy it, and then pass it on, or leave it around.

Just to get people reading comics again. To remember why they loved them. To make them smile.

The annual event Free Comic Book Day is a fine example of sharing the form, publishers producing free samples/anthologies of their titles. And the fact it has been going so long must imply some level of success, a recouping of costs. Perhaps though, it could go further. Free Comic Book Day appeals largely to existing comic fans, as it exists mainly in comic shops. What about the same idea, but everywhere? Make your free comic available wherever possible, ignite an interest, and bring people BACK into comic shops.

I was talking to an editor I know today who said he'd been thinking along similar lines, that comics could be best used being given to those who need them. Those for whom life dealt a crap hand and even just cracking a smile could be the most powerful thing. To me, it seems like the most beautiful idea. Every comic artists loves the thought that what they've created could affect someone's life, even in the slightest way. The idea that something you've drawn can affect a complete stranger's emotion, that's such a powerful notion. So why not take it further, and try to reach everybody?

If you're wondering how such a system is financially sustainable, it is this – we make comics become a part of life. They become a resource, a comfort, a friend and a dream. They begin to seep through into the undercurrent of society, to regain the respect they deserve. In different countries you can already see this happening. Everyone will cite the Japanese or French, who consume comics at a ferocious pace, as they are part of the fabric of their lives. Other countries, like here in the UK, they've slipped out of people's sight. We all work hard towards the slow rise of comics back into the limelight, but in terms of mainstream, we're lagging way behind other countries.

Maybe we're being too insular by trying to address the existing comic scene. Instead of rearranging the furniture indoors, maybe we should be changing the landscape outside.

This way, we're doing some actual direct good. And we're reaching people who might never have otherwise picked up a comic, we're influencing society, we're slowly, very slowly, raising our beloved comics up, back into people's view. And in the long-term, that creates a demand. And a demand builds an industry. And an industry creates not only work, but brings forth new talent.

For it to work for a publisher, it would require them to invest in extra printing (or to reuse the sale-or-return copies, what DOES happen to them?), to slip sampler comic books into other comics (like they used to do when I was a kid), new distribution methods and to crank the wheels of the promotional machine into overdrive. And that's a big deal to ask, I realise that. But a passion for bringing comics to the masses, despite the cost, is excellent promotion in itself, and were at least some of the mainstream children's comics available for free, the advertising prices that publisher could command would be through the roof.

It is all a little too much to ask, of course, but small steps. As I said, it's an idea, conveniently skirting around the practicalities.

On the other side, for those of us not involved in publishing, there are perhaps more viable options. Setting up a crowdfunder to cover the costs of a comic you intend to release free, to those who perhaps comics would otherwise not reach, would be such a brilliant start. I've been entertaining the idea myself. It's a system where everyone wins – the funders get exclusive content, you get to produce a comic filled with different artists and strips, without initial costs, and people get to enjoy it. Wrap that up with a supporting website and digital option, with a pay-what-you-want system to fund issue two, and you could have a whole new player in the comics scene. One which is literally funded by goodwill and passion. Imagine if some big name creators waded in and started doing the same. The fanzine ethic of 'make it yourself' returns, enabled by technology, and the comic industry as a whole can only benefit.

The creation of a comic, where artists get paid, and the finished product is free. What a phenomenally idealistic business model. But with crowdfunding, fanbases, the internet, and the sheer goodwill of people, what a realistic one.

So that's the question, would it in any way be viable? Would big business ever help fund free comics JUST to make people happy? And crucially, would free comics undermine the medium, and ultimately be more damaging? Any thoughts welcome.

Ps. One new such comic already trying this model for a slightly older audience is Off Life. Why not check out their funding page www.indiegogo.com/offlife, and encourage this simple, but wonderful, idea?
Losing the print version of The Dandy, which was announced this week, presents a real hole in the market, and one which may well get wider. What The Dandy did, and did very well, was be silly. Gloriously, ridiculously, silly, a real mixed bag of the absurd. And while we still have The Beano, it always felt like The Dandy was its ever-so-slightly childish younger sibling (despite being older), bounding around, stomping on what few rules The Beano had. Especially since the relaunch, it was making an art out of anarchy.

The support for The Dandy, since we're losing it, has been quite overwhelming. I've lost count of the number of people who've told me they're going to buy one (or more) copies, that it's a tragedy, that they kind of forgot it existed. National media coverage stirred not only a nostalgia, but a real need for that childish surrealism we all took for granted when we were kids, but lose sight of a little bit when we grow up. There was a palpable need to reconnect with it again, and a very real fear of losing it.

So.

Every cartoonist has their own ideas what a comic should be. I think when something this culturally important happens though, it's important we step to one side and take a look at what went wrong, and where we can go from here. Since this is comics we're talking about, there's a great swell of enthusiasm from creators and readers alike to push the art forward, to do SOMETHING to support comics. And while we'd all love to start up our own comics, the very real and very large problems of money, printing, distribution, all stomp those dreams into the ground.

Here's what I think comics can do. These are just my opinions, but I believe them very firmly, and would invite any discussions/ideas on the subject.

I'd like comics to claim back the sense of anarchy. The very deranged ethic of Oink! comic, swerving dangerously all over the place, linking stories in with each other, mashing ideas together, creating whatever seems to work at the time without any fear or caution. At the same time, I'd like us to learn a lot from American models. The Adventure Time comic is a great example, it looks beautiful, it's fun and crazy, and the style is something kids really attach to. Even looking at the world of Marvel, with their range of superheroes, each with their own stories to tell.

And this, I think, is key. Stories. Really strong, well rounded stories, led by really strong characters. Silly, daft, ridiculous characters, but strong in their design. A roster, or a family, a line-up even of instantly identifiable characters, to follow every week and get completely lost in their worlds. If you ever come up with an idea for a cartoon show on TV, do you know how long it takes? Years and years (trust me on this), even just to get through development. And in that time, characters and motivations are really thought about, worked through, tried and dropped. At the end, if you have a TV show that works, it's because of all the love and effort that's gone into it. So how do you get that same love and effort for a comic?

Simple. Creator owned content. 99% of the time, comics and magazines don't allow creator owned content. At all. As a result, if you pitch your idea and it's taken on, you either give away the rights and earn a living, or you don't. And while we in the comics industry all work hard, and love the work we produce, there must be something to be said for working on a character you have very real personal investment in. The work would be better. Even if only in tiny, subtle ways, your character would come through that little bit stronger. In allowing this, a publication would have a happier, more productive workforce, creating better ideas, looking around for other ways to exploit these ideas (perhaps TV), and bringing a share of any potential revenue back to the publication, as a thanks for being the first to host these delirious ideas. That, to me, sounds like a very mutually beneficial arrangement.

Because it's a mistake to think viewing characters as 'properties' is a bad thing, is a sell-out. 'Properties', to me, are the ideas which sparked off because they were good, and found a variety of mediums to explore. New ways to play with the characters. In no way could that be a bad thing, just the same as exposing your idea to as many people as possible can not be viewed as a bad thing. It's like raising a weird, boggly-eyed creature from birth, then setting it free in the woods. You don't know what's going to happen, but hopefully it'll make some people laugh and others shriek and cry.

The emphasis of all this, as I said, would be silly. Gloriously, wonderfully, silly. The kind of stories children would make up themselves. And lets involve them in it, teach them how to draw the characters, put cartooning tutorials online, show their work off in the comic. Make ourselves a community, to reward the readers.

Doing this all online would be the cheapest and easiest way. But if you'll humour me for a second, I'm going to explore print instead.

I love printed comics. I love online comics too, but i tend to flick through them without really paying attention, and they can easily get lost in amongst the competition. With a printed comic, it requires a certain type of concentration, and a certain affection on the part of the reader. A US comicbook size comic. With a beautiful cover every issue, a different character to showcase. It would sell at supermarket checkouts for a cheap price, the perfect impulse buy, there for adults and children alike to flick through, laugh at, and add to the foodshop. We would print sampler issues and include them with newspapers, give them away at underground tube stations just like they do with free papers, something to read on the way home. Give samplers away every month in schools. We would flyer, oh the flyering, and internet campaign our little socks off.

Oh the internet, we would use that too. We could use crowdfunding to raise the money for issue one, the more we make, the more the artists get paid. Every funder above a certain level gets the comic, a goody bag (man i don't care how old you are, 'goody' and 'bag' are still two of the most exciting words in the universe), and a page of original artwork from the comic! A piece of history. Something really special. The website itself, with integrated apps and whatever else you need, featuring extra exclusive content, constantly changing reasons to come back to. A support act for the main event, the comic book.

Is this feasible? It's far from easy. We would need a publisher to take us on, or a sponsor, or a rich benefactor who just wants to see people laughing again. Someone to take charge would be good (hey I'm passionate about this, but time spent organising is time not spent drawing, and i know from experience that can be frustrating). Someone who knows their marketing would be great too. The problem we've heard about existing comics is not the content, people love the content when they get to see it. The problem is getting it under their noses in the first place. One of the reasons the big licensed comics like Simpsons, Moshi Monsters etc sell so many is because they have the almighty weight of hugely successful TV shows/toys behind them. That is something ordinary comics don't have, and they suffer massively for it.

So that's the dream. Character-led comics. Creator owned properties. A mutual love of comics. And above all, the silliest, most gloriously stupid thing you've ever read.

Anyone?
Japan was famously reticent to embrace the western world until about a hundred years ago, and to be honest if they could've seen what we were going to do to their character design they'd probably have resisted a little bit longer. Put up bigger barricades, turn off the lights, and convince western noseybonks that no one's in, because otherwise we're popping round and taking all your stuff.

These days, just saying something is Japanese or Looks Japanese is enough to make it suddenly interesting. As if 'Japanese' meant the same as 'flecked in unicorn heads' or 'a mirror to your very soul', it's now a lazy adjective to make you think something is new and exciting. Fact is, there's plenty of terrible Japanese art same as there is plenty of terrible EveryOtherCountry art, it's just we're still in the honeymoon period with Japan so it can fart, burp, and not flush properly, and we won't mind.

If you've been to Japan, you'll know much of this is actually well deserved. It's a beautiful place and a wonderful culture, alien and new, yet friendly and familiar at the same time. You'd have to be a stone cold-hearted bastard not to love it. What annoys me is the constant fascination with a thing, anything, JUST because 'It's Japanese', it's at the expense of discerning opinion, and a little too trendy as a statement to be taken seriously.

Worse though, is what we in the west (are we still calling ourselves that?) have learned from Japan, and flung through our uniquely moribund shit-filters. Much of the Japanese pop aesthetic, from products to services, is about anthropomorphising things, putting a face on it, making it smile and having our bitter insides bubble with the cute. When we realised Japan TM could be a whole new way of doing things, we latched onto the idea with gusto, wrenching their cute faces off and stapling them to our own drab existence. In the last 10 years in particular, our artists and designers have put a smiley face on everything, written some Kanji underneath it, and told us to piss off and enjoy it.

While making the world a happier place isn't necessssarily a bad thing, the licence it has given lazy bullshit artists is. It is now exceptionally easy to create a character on your software of choice, cutting and pasting big eyes and gormless mouths onto ice creams, apples, roadkill, whatever the hell you want. No need to explore the character, learn its shape, get a feel for who it is. Now you can use more than two line thicknesses, call it kawaii and tile it across your merchandise of choice. A steady stream of idiotic, dead-eyed bastards, dancing and smiling and puking all over your material goods.

If character designers really wanted to learn from Japan, they could learn how to create CHARM, not zeitgeist. Look at some of the most iconic Japanese characters to emerge over the years - Pikachu, AstroBoy, Domokun, Totoro, all very different but all lovingly crafted, learnt and grown by hand. You can see who they are, what they think, where they come from, and often this is by looking in their eyes. Irrelevant of what style of eyes a character has, from blinking dots to huge expressive bulging eyeballs, you can see a character's soul in their eyes just as you can a human's.

What we have here, instead of charm, is photoshop. Since something being Japanese is still automatically grade-A cool, there's no shortage of cynical component-building by committee. A factory line of characters with interchangeable eyes, MAW-mouths and those BASTARD two finger salutes. Everyone from big design companies to individual illustrators are flattening our already grim world under lifeless, soulless and inane disposable NEW FRIENDS, telling us they're awesome BECAUSE THEY'RE JAPANEEEZZZ.

While it's fine as an artist to be influenced by another country, it's rather imperative you make what you're doing your own, otherwise what's the point in doing it? In the UK (since I live here) we have an absolute wealth of talented character designers, all crafting their own creations. From Aardman to Burgerman, from Jonathan Edwards and Feltmistress to Nick Edwards, and SO many artists besides, we're rich in style, talent and charm. I'd urge anyone to check out the Pictoplasma site (since the conference's on at the moment) as an example of the variety available to a character designer.

I love cute. As you may well see from my own work, I adore and embrace cute loveable characters and do my very best to create them (I've had the 'japanesey' label thrown at me a lot, and I don't mind so much since there's obviously an influence there). So this is in no way a diatribe at the form or the style. Indeed there are a host of illustrators working in very cute styles (both hand-drawn and vector), obviously heavily influenced by Japanese art, who are producing some fantastic creations. My issue is with the whitewash of terrible cute characters for the sake of it, put together on a laptop by dissecting parts of each other, and shipped under the promotional tag of 'Japanese'. It's lazy, it's ugly, and it's insulting. Characters need life in them, personalities, motives, not just the same indentikit faces. They need to be sculpted and nurtured, built by hand, not by keyboard shortcut.

If designers and illustrators could stop being so damn lazy, maybe we could stop calling our art 'Japanesey', and start calling it 'ours'.
there's a version of this with pictures on my blog here www.fumboo.com/blog/everything…

Sometimes I get asked advice about drawing comics. The benefits you'll get from asking are akin to shouting your own name into a bin, in so much that it's probably not going to change anything about your current lifechoices. I can give you all the advice in the world but it's not going to give you the heart and fire you'll need to already have. Dancers act like they have all this passion burning through their veins which they just gotta express, but it's no different for illustrators (granted, less dancing involved). We don't draw this stuff because it kills time, we do it because it makes up such a large part of who we are and how we're defined in the world. And it's not pretentious to declare that either – if you want to do this, you better believe the HECK out of what you're doing.

So if that applies to you, and you can say 'it defines who I am in the world' without sounding like a proper tit (I can't), then read on.

4 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DRAWING COMICS

1) You don't need qualifications

None. Not one. It always surprises me when people ask this, as if school has been telling them "yeah, well, if you wanna be one of them 'artists', you better make hella sure you have Chemistry and Spanish under your belt". I have never, ever been asked what grades I got at school or college, and why would I? An editor/publisher won't ask for your school record, and won't care that you rescued an old man in a motorised wheelchair from a river for your Duke Of Edinburgh Award. All they care about is seeing what you're showing them there and then, whether it's your portfolio or your pitch, and if they like it they'll take you on.

If you're still at school and reading that, be sure to read this too. You do still need to study hard, and this is for two reasons. One, drawing comics probably isn't going to make you rich, and even if you do earn a living out of it, it could take a decade or two before you get to that stage (no, really), so chances are you're going to need an actual proper job to support yourself. So make sure you get the grades to find a nice one.

Two, you need the smarts. Drawing comics isn't, contrary to idiot belief, an easy job for people who don't know how theyr brayn wurks. If you want to draw comics well, you need an intelligence behind you, a certain level of awareness. When you're at school, learning irrelevant minutiae does seem pointless, but when you leave you realise it was all to raise your general smarts. The best artists are the ones who have as good a brain as they do a drawing hand. I tend to use Kate Beaton as a good example of this, but really it applies to (probably) most of your favourites.

Point is, don't be stupid. Stupid people make stupid comics, and they might end up making stupid TV shows which aren't very good but hit the demographics, and they make the viewers stupid, and if you're the person responsible for this then you are the worst sort of degenerate who shouldn't be allowed to sleep at night.

2) Everyone else is an idiot

A lot of the concerns I hear are from people worried about making their work public for fear of criticism. The 'what if people don't like it?' self-doubt which scrapes its way across your subconscious nerves like a rusty nail and suddenly you're face-down on the floor rather than risking the wrath of your detractors.

The only possible advice I can give to this is who gives a toss? There are billions of people in this world, and unless you invent Spongebob again and convince everyone you did it first, most of them are never going to see your work. And of those that do, only some will like it. Of those that don't, most will just move on and find something else they enjoy instead. The rest, the tiny proportional slither left, the very few who've seen your work, and dislike it, and don't want to move on, THEY will comment on it, because they seem to believe their opinion is very important. And they, are stupid. Because art, by its very nature, is subjective. It would be impossible to create art everyone enjoys, and why would you want to? Surely it's better to create something personal and heartfelt, and risk a few vocal detractors. At least you've evoked a response in them, an emotion. Better that than finding an audience and just flat-lining them with boredom.

So what I tend to say to people is, if someone doesn't like your work, then they're wrong. And it sounds arrogant to say out loud, but it's more self-preservation, and it's an attitude you'll need to adopt if you want to forge a career doing this stuff. If your work begins to attract even an iota of attention, especially with this new-fangled internet floating around, you're going to get people criticising you. And it's never constructive. It will proudly say it is, but it isn't. It's just someone you don't know casting judgement on something they (literally) don't understand. If you're going to let that knock you down every time it happens, you're never going to be able to stand up. You're doing what you do because it means something, and no one else has the right to take that away.

3) Everyone else is lovely

Right yeah I know, confusing innit. I'm saying one thing then the other, but this is a very important point. I said the attitude above 'sounds' arrogant, but it isn't. It's confidence and pride. Arrogance is something else entirely, and it's very very ugly.

Most artists are the humblest breed you could hope to meet, often shy, easily startled creatures who wear glasses and tweet about tea. Some are a bit more outlandish, usually the americans, but they're still lovely. Very few successful artists (whether they be comic artists, webcomic artists, cartoonists, whatever) are outright pricks. And the reason for this is that they've worked long and hard to get where they are, they've taken the knocks and the kicks to the crotch (oh yeah, that's a part of this job, you'll find out), and they've earned their successes. They're probably not rich (success does not equal rich, for the love of god please stop thinking comic artists are rich), they probably have a sweet little life getting to do something they love. They're appreciative, grateful for their lot in life, friendly. They like that you like them. That's pretty cool of you.

There's a very small percentage who believe their own hype and are grade-A fatballs, but lets ignore them.

Now, since the internet happened (what was that like in the 20s or something?), a lot more people have been showing their work around, whether online or print-on-demand-ing their own books, etc. And that's brilliant, a new medium for us all to share our little corners of the world. Unfortunately it has also brought with it a species of self-entitled runt, who thinks because they have a couple of comics on deviantart, they're top of the tits now. They're cocky and, yeah why not, arrogant. Worst of all, they think the world owes them all the attentions.

Now I hasten to add here, again, it's a very small percentage. Most artists online are humble and friendly however long they've been here, and thank god for that. This is more just a warning about that attitude, about getting too far ahead of yourself. It's really ugly, and it's a surefire way to bury yourself. Now the internet's full of artists trying to show their work, it's harder and harder to be seen, so we don't need these big wobbly bags of ego flopping their way to the front.

Best approach? Be cool, be nice, be appreciative. Chat to your favourite artists, learn from them, support fellow artists, form your own little personal community. And most important of all, spend time on your craft. Getting a domain name doesn't mean you're an artist, you need to put the hours, days, months, and years in. You need to earn it.

4) This is thrilling, ENJOY it.

If you get hired to do your arts all over someone's comic, or whatever the opportunity, remind yourself why this is happening. It's because someone wants what you're doing, specifically your view on the world. That makes this all very personal and rewarding. As such, it's imperative that you stick to your guns.

By that, I don't mean be difficult. I mean learn to recognise what you're doing, what your brain is trying to create, and follow it. Don't get nudged one way or the other, don't lose track of what's at the very core of your work, what makes it so essentially you. I've been a full-time illustrator for 13 years (cripes), and my work always has the same essence running through it. Even though I look back and think much of my older work is pretty terrible, it is still essentially me, and it's fascinating to watch how that's evolved and become more distinct.

That process never ends. You'll die and never reach the pinnacle of what you're trying to do, but that's irrelevant. There's no such thing as an end point with art, you're going to keep going and growing and that's the fun of it. But while your art's core should never change, remember that the world around you will. And it's so, SO important that you keep your eyes open on this. So important I could weep while punching myself in the bum. Just, please.

You can't sit around hoping lady luck will poink you on the head and give you a comic strip gig. You have to go looking for them, and you have to put in the legwork. Not necessarily literally, I know a lot of artists go to show their portfolios and their faces at cons and that's how they get known, but equally the bulk of my efforts have been stuffing photocopies into envelopes and sending them to everyone I could bother. There is no right way of doing it. But the onus is a lot more on you now, the opportunities for you to create your OWN career are unimaginably bigger than they were even a few years ago, and they keep going.

In my opinion, you need to build a rich arsenal of work around you, and jump on the chances you see to develop it even/especially if that's just for your own amusement. A bit like tying a mattress around you and pouncing on a lion. If you hear of a new way to publish e-books, run at that with something. If you hear of a new twatty social networking site to connect with artists, fling yourself at it. If you have a great idea for a webcomic about elves in binbags, go away and make it because it seemed like a good idea at the time. If you hear of a TV company looking for new ideas, ROLL DOWN THE ROAD IN YOUR MATTRESS COCOON AND SHOW THEM WHAT YOU GOT. Enjoy the thrill of the chase, the chance to find new avenues, the glory of a new technology making your shiznit 79% cooler. Any opportunity that happens to you could easily take years to come to fruition (seriously) so take the reigns yourself and keep creating and creating and building your little world up IRRELEVANT OF WHY YOU'RE DOING IT OR WHO YOU'RE DOING IT FOR.

Because you're doing it because you love it, and you're doing it for yourself. You didn't earn grades to do it, you didn't listen to idiots, you stayed friendly, and you did it because it was fun, which is genuinely the only thing that will ever matter.

And we're as lucky as you are that you're doing it.
We're nearly there. Just a few hours left to throw a few dollars towards Hairy Steve, the comic written by me and drawn by Steve Bright. In return, you could grab a load of swag from signed copies of the comic, badges, stickers, bottle openers, original artwork (from both me and Steve) and of course getting your own personal zombiefied portrait. www.hairysteve.com <-- Click here to visit hairysteve.com, check out the comic so far (it's running as a webcomic, 12 pages in already), and click the sidebar to see more details about how you can help out. And by funding, you're not only getting cool stuff in return, you're also supporting independent comic-makers just having fun MAKING COMICS. For you to enjoy online, for free.

At the time of writing this, there's only 19 hours left for you to contribute, before funding is closed forever! Get over there quick!

(Thank you)
I remember quite a few years ago reading an artist's blog about how he was an outsider at school, rejected by society, and because he didn't conform or fit in, that's why he was such a rad artist now. And I remember thinking, you prick. You don't choose to be an outsider, you become one because you're awkward and find society hard, just like the rest of us, only difference is most of us don't grow up to then use this alienation as an anecdote for how cool we are. Even though i read this ages ago, it always really flipping annoyed me. Partly because I've always felt a sense of bewilderment blundering through my career and its left me feeling like a drifter. Not even in a hip, alternative way. Just a bit lost.

Here's why. I find it hard to buddy up with others in my industry, because I rarely know enough about it. Back when I was drawing Bear and suddenly found myself an artist in the alt/goth/horror/whatever comics world, it was rather like kicking a pig onto a motorway. I didn't know anything about the scene, didn't know the artists, didn't know the references. I was being compared to artists I'd never heard of, so I found myself checking them out quickly just so I could keep up the conversation. I didn't know the scenemakers or the heroes. Even wider, in comics generally, I'd never read the classics (the ones any self-respecting comic fan would rightfully stamp your crotch to dust if you hadn't read), or any of the well-known artists. I'd just done my own little silliness for my own amusement and now was trying to hold conversations about things I knew nothing about.

The same happens now I'm producing children's books, I have no idea what the right ones are to have read, or who the artists are to know of. When people talk to me about someone-or-other my face goes pale and i nod in polite agreement, making a note to remember that name but knowing just by thinking i must make a note of it, i've already forgotten it. I've been very lucky in getting to know a good handful of children's book authors who produce some beautiful work, and I'm proud to know them, but outside of that I'm an idiot. Again with children's comics, I've been working in the industry for years but don't know a lot of the classics before me. I read these comics as a child, devoured them, couldn't get enough of them, but I never really paid attention to names or places.

Then I started finding myself working in children's television, and the same happens but on a bigger scale. Suddenly, you're the floppy-haired stubbly artist in a room full of suits, it's like being a child at a dinner party. You feel like your place is under the buffet table, putting scones in your pocket for later. Everyone in that room knows how to socialise, knows how to talk and most importantly, knows their industry. As a creator, you've come from a far more secluded place, and don't know the references. I've held evening-long conversations with people about children's shows i'd never even heard of, just hoping I could keep it up inbetween frantic glugs of wine. Then I get a bit silly and sweary. I should stop doing that.

So although you could tag me an illustrator or any deviation of that, this job involves different types of industries, none of which I seem to know my way around. I'm just bouncing between them. I should work harder at it, should learn more about my peers and contemporaries, but I just don't have the brain to retain this much information. And that sounds like an excuse, but let me put it to you this way - I love films, tv and video games. I watch most films that come out, and TV is just the right mix of concept and stupid that it keeps me switched off. But if you ask me my favourite director, I'd have no idea. If I said to you I was a massive fan of a TV show, and you quoted a line of it to me, I'd have no idea what you were talking about. I can absolutely love something, yet not store it in my head. And I rarely watch things more than once, so it's unlikely to stick. My brain is like a single rollerskate being pushed round a rollercoaster track. I'm very grateful for how it serves me in drawing comics, it's that flippancy that seems to keep me going, but in storing information it's just flapping in the wind. And when you're amongst people referencing their favourite things, that's not incredibly useful. So outside of my industry, I can't even associate with glorious, beautiful geeks.

So in conclusion, DUHHH. I love hearing people enthuse about their favourite things, to hear passion in someone's voice for the artform, but I never find the eloquence myself. I can scream an emphatic YES but beyond punching a thing, don't know what carries on from there. I'm just boing-boinging around between everything you love, enjoying it in silence then promptly being distracted by lollipops.

If you and I have a conversation, please bear this in mind. I fell into a few industries I wasn't prepared for, AND NOW I'M ALL DRUNK ON YOUR WINE.
When The Dandy relaunched last year, it caught a lot of attention. As Britain's oldest comic institution, it had the weight of history behind it and any attempts at revitalising the form would naturally take some punches. What it did was quite daring, it scrapped the magazine format it had been slowly creeping towards, and instead declared itself a bona fide comic once more, filled to the gills with a variety of cartoons. Initially it also did away with the cover-mounted freebie toys, a risk in today's market. What it wanted to be, was a modern version of the comics we grew up with. Unashamedly silly.

Recently the response came back – sales had dropped by a half. What a crushing blow to such a noble attempt.

Inevitably, sensing blood, the parasites have come out. Sensing a wounded animal they've pounced, picking at it from a safe cowering distance. In this canyon of the internet, the wretched scabby vultures don't waste a second. Forums and blogs, suddenly filled with the barely-concealed glee of a thousand old, bitter, failed cartoonists who declare they KNEW it wouldn't work. I say they're failed cartoonists because you can usually follow the trail of bun crumbs back to their own portfolios, as they've clearly tried to infiltrate the world of children's comics but obviously never quite made it. Instead of crying salty tears into their own pisspoor efforts, they bitch and whine their stupid opinions online, content that there'll always be some other bitter tit who feels the same.

Worse is the personal attacks they make on the art. The Dandy was bold in allowing new, unexpected artists to take the reigns on some of their popular characters, to try new things and shake the medium up a bit. The range of material inside was a joy, and should be applauded. But the criticism coming back at it was unfounded, and purely subjective. I'll say this now, I can take it. I've been doing this long enough, and had enough whiney criticism thrown at me that it swiftly stops being hurtful and fast becomes funny. When you realise you're being criticised by the angry, bitter internet, with all its confused rationale and hypocritical vitriol, it becomes more of a trophy – the fact you're invoking such a reaction means you're doing something right. But I've seen the attacks on the other artists, some of them brutal, and it's nothing but childish jealousy. It dismisses all the years of work someone's put into their craft in one sentence.

It's pathetic. An opinion is one thing, and an informed critical opinion can often be very helpful. But a snide, bullshit swipe at something that was trying to do good is callous. The Dandy was standing up for British comics, and the artists were chosen because their artwork delights children. And it did, any naysayer can say their kids didn't like The Dandy but they're not taking into account the thousands that DID, and the untapped audience that would if they could just be reached. For every grown adult who says I draw comics like an idiot monkey, there's a score of people who love what I do. Complaining that someone's style is wrong is like saying custard is offensive – it means nothing. It's your opinion. Instead of frothing it up with the nastiest words you can muster, try not thinking about it. Try getting on with your own life. Try doing something constructive instead of whining like a bitch.

The reasons for The Dandy audience slide could be many (distribution, advertising, competition etc). I thought they were doing something really right, you can say I'm biased because I work for them, but I would have applauded it even if I had not. Even if they'd rejected my work, I would have promoted the relaunched Dandy. It deserves a huge amount of respect for trying, and I really hope it can find a way to keep going. I've a few suggestions but hey, I'm sure they've a few plans too.

Instead of hiding in your dark corners, internet critics, seeping out at the first sign of trouble, you could have been cheering on a bold move in children's comics. You could have stood up for the greater cause, you may even have enjoyed some of the work inside if you'd made the effort to look past your own bitter opinions. But you'd rather criticise someone else's work, than do something constructive yourself.

Because it's far easier to destroy than it is to create.
Hairy Steve, the hairy antihero comic written by me and drawn by the awesome Steve Bright, is now online as a webcomic, and already four pages in! www.hairysteve.com <-- CLICK HERE to come and have a look (contains a little swearing and violence). Some of you reading this may remember years ago when I first mentioned Hairy Steve, and we showed samples of the character art Steve had done, so it's wonderful to finally be bringing you the whole story, complete and free.

You've probably heard me banging on about how Hairy Steve was a fundraising campaign, and how through people's incredible kindness we broke through our target in just the first few days. Well we're still raising money, all the profits go to pay Steve (the artist, not the Hairy) a wage, which to be honest is what comic book artists often sorely lack. And in return, we give you not only the thrilling weekly instalments, but also a host of freebies including printed comics, original artwork, even a zombie portrait of your pretty face! Not only that, but today we announced we're also giving away these super awesome Hairy Steve badges and stickers to most of the funders. So come along and contribute whatever you can, there's still time left on the campaign, and bag yourself some ace free stuff. FREE STUFF!
I've written a few blogs recently about art and the internet, such as the trials of promoting your art online www.fumboo.com/blog/the-art-of…, and trying to get the internet to play nice www.fumboo.com/blog/how-i-trie…. To make this a triad of blogs, I just wanted to write a few thoughts down about where to go with it all.

HAIRY STEVE the webcomic begins on Monday (www.hairysteve.com). It is drawn by Steve Bright, and written by me (usually, i'm too self-obsessed to let any other artist draw my ideas, but this project needed Steve from the start). You may recall we set up an indiegogo campaign www.indiegogo.com/Hairy-Steve to raise money for it. We asked for $2,000 within a 90 day deadline. I said to Steve before we started, 'lets not get our hopes up. We may get a few hundred out of it'. As it happens, within the first three days we'd exceeded our target. We were totally stunned, the sheer amount of contributions coming in were way beyond our expectations, and they're still going. Since there's still some 85 days left on the campaign, it's still very much open to contributions and i'm intrigued to see how far this can go.

It's actually quite a beautiful system. People donate money, and in return they get incentives. Incentives is an ugly word, maybe stuff is better. They get STUFF. Principally, a copy of Hairy Steve the comic when it's finished, signed by us both. But donate a little more and there is original artwork for grabs, the chance to be drawn as a zombie, and i've a few ideas of other things we can offer further down the line too. But while I'm really proud of what we're offering, I must say I don't believe the rewards are the main reason people are being so kind. A large chunk of it is goodwill. We asked for help to get this project off the ground, and people responded. The comments and feedback have shown that our contributors really want this to succeed.

And best of all, we promised if we reached a quarter of our target (which we did in the first hour), we would put the comic online as a free webcomic. Contributors get rewards, interested parties get a webcomic, Steve gets paid (not me, I wrote the script about four years ago, it is Steve doing all the hard work now). Everyone wins.

The amount we asked for, $2,000, isn't a specific amount. It's not to pay for printing our comic (too much), and it's not to pay Steve a page rate for the artwork (not enough - it would equal about £30 a page after conversions and tax, which is nothing for a day's work). And anyway, who gets paid to draw a webcomic. The amount we asked for was to FACILITATE us getting this idea off the ground. Steve couldn't afford to work on it for free, and we needed a sizeable chunk of his time to get the comic produced. The idea of funding him like this was to allow him the space to work, to make this an actual project rather than a whimsy.

And this, I think, is where the system works best. An understanding that by funding Hairy Steve you're not paying for a specific thing, you're adding a hook to haul it into reality. You can't say an artist (or art) is worth a specific amount, but you can say a concept is good enough to be given the chance to breathe. People liked the idea of Hairy Steve (thankfully), and of what our partnership might produce, and responded in kind. In return, we respond. It's a circle.

When the webcomic goes online, people can still contribute in return for STUFF, for the next three months or so. I want to see how this goes and I hope we can raise our total higher, and higher. God knows Steve deserves all he'll earn out of this, and we can gauge the support for us to carry on and perhaps do more. This isn't just a webcomic, or a limited-edition printed comic, or a crowdsourced campaign, it's all of those things working together.

And THIS is what I love. It's organic. It's planted and then grows purely by enthusiasm. And it changes, and it adapts, and it becomes something everyone can benefit from. If you do a webcomic, there are two main ways you are supposed to earn a living from it. Either you put a 'donate' button on your website which everyone will ignore, or you produce merchandise based on your webcomic. Now here, the theory is sound. Your webcomic, despite being the content, is instead working as the advertising. It is the free and enjoyable body of work which will then get your fans coughing up for tshirts or books. I love this idea but in reality, it's incredibly hard to master. A tiny fraction of webcomics make their living this way, but the vast majority only sell a tshirt or two here and there, even if the webcomic is really popular. And while you draw a webcomic because you love doing it, not for the financial reward, any money coming in would of course buy you more time to work on it, maybe even help you produce more strips. Producing work for free on the internet, and earning, are two incredibly hard things to splice together.

I've been thinking about this for a long time. I do wonder if the traditional way artists show their work online is beginning to falter. We all have our little corner, where we post up our work, people may comment, then repeat. And there are so many of us doing it, so many wonderful artists doing it, we're in danger of getting lost amongst ourselves. I've seen truly amazing artists with only a tiny audience on the net, just because they couldn't shout loud enough.

Instead, I wonder if artists should be concentrating on what they do, when what they do is build worlds. Every artist creates their scenes, their characters, plays god with what happens, creates and destroys and has a FLIPPING BRILLIANT TIME doing it. We are what's in our heads. And if you're creating a world, rather than show it to people, wouldn't you rather they climbed inside it? Instead of 'here's my work, have a look', could it not be 'i've made a land out of the brightly-coloured bits of my brain, come in and have a paddle'. My point being, art should be immersive and involving, something an audience can really feel a part of. And I'm throwing these thoughts out there to invite comment, I'm describing my thinking process for my own work and wondering if others see it this way. You might think I'm being over-flowery. You might agree but notice I'm curiously quiet on the specifics. Every artist would need a different approach to evoke what they're doing, every corner of the net would need growing in its own distinct way.

I have a rather over-ambitious idea I'd like to put into effect next year, which i'll need a lot of people's help with, and will earn me nothing. But it's the thrill of making it flesh that is the motivation, the same reason I put so much work online for free (there must be an absolute mountain of my comics piled up on the internet by now), and the same reason I've become fascinated with our Hairy Steve campaign. It has invited people in to be a part of it and they've responded so generously.

Lets see how far it can go, and how much we can give back, and make this entire process symbiotic. Everyone involved in this Hairy Steve project, from us, to those who contribute money, to anyone who reads the webcomic, is part of the same thing and makes it a whole. A big wobbly balloon filled with support, appreciation, hairballs and zombies.

We should make everything this much fun.
"They say he was created by darkness itself, a manifest of the shadows he now confines himself to. The Monstrum of our town. The Hunter. Where he walks, darkness follows. Where darkness lays, death comes upon.

That's what I heard anyway. Or it might have been a movie."

Some people reading this may remember Hairy Steve, a tooth-and-fur comic about blood, swearing and nazis that I was writing about five years ago with the superb artist Steve Bright illustrating. I wrote about it on my journal and we showed a lot of the development art. Well it kinda fell by the wayside, both me and Steve had to get on with rent-paying work and leave Hairy Steve as a whim, a nice idea we'd one day like to return to.

This year, the idea of internet funding occurred. Comic artists asking for contributions to help them finish their comic, in return offering incentives to everyone who contributes, seems to me like a really organic way of producing art (and, more than that, free art). Being someone who puts most of his work online for free (and by god there's a lot of it on here now), I find this idea intriguing and want to see if it works.

So far it has, in the first half an hour we had a flurry of very generous contributions. All the money earned will go towards printing a limited-run of this comic (only available to contributors), the rest going to pay Steve a wage. I take no profits. In return for contributing, you can get everything from signed comics to original sketches, even a zombie drawing of yourself.

And even if you can't contribute, we would appreciate any help in promoting this. Share it around, spread the word! Because when we hit a quarter of our total, Hairy Steve will come online as a webcomic. So you get to read it anyway! EVERYONE WINS!

Click here www.hairysteve.com , to visit our website front page and indiegogo campaign telling you all about the story, how to contribute, and over the coming weeks we'll be posting up previews and sketches!

Thank you.
Click www.corporateskull.com/comic/s… to read issue two, Of Beasts And Bastards, from the start. Contains swearing and violence.

Well there we go, issue two done. I can't believe how quickly this time has gone, it seems not long ago I was worrying about keeping the momentum to get through issue one, and now we're already 48 pages into our story. I do wonder what people are thinking of this story, if its taking too long. My usual instinct is to write more spontaneous comics, that you can pick up and put down, but Skull is laying its path very carefully. Questions are arising (and more will come), as this little world builds up. I'm loving establishing it all first, before we really hit the meat of it. I'd be interested to know people's opinions, is it going too slow for you, or is the pace right? I'll be writing a bit more about where issues 3 and 4 are going soon.

So anyway, please enjoy issue two, it's been an absolute blast to draw, especially the climax. I've found myself a couple of days spare to write issue three, then I just need a couple more days to start drawing it, and there'll hopefully be an announcement about when it'll start in a couple of weeks. I have to say I might need a little longer/be a little more irregular with the next issue. Work is starting to overtake me and it does have to take precedent - Skull is still very much a side-project even though it has a huge chunk of my heart at the moment.

Lastly, thank you everyone for your comments, tweets and general Skull support during issue two. It's been wonderful. And the SKULL ART www.corporateskull.com/skull-a… has just been ridiculously good, thank you so much. If you want to contribute any Skull art please do, it's really humbling to see. And if you have any comments about Skull generally, any gripes or ideas, or even theories about where you think this is all going, please do post em up! Knowing people are enjoying it is often the biggest push when working on a webcomic, partly because we're needy, partly to know we're not shouting into the void.

Thanks. And anything you can do to help share Skull around would be brilliant too. SPREAD THE WORD.

jamie
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about how artists treat the internet. Here, in return, are some thoughts on how the internet treats artists. (this journal was originally posted on my website HERE www.fumboo.com/blog/how-i-trie… click to read it in its original form, with images)


So last year I drew a little goofy comic called 9 Ways Guys Pee www.fumboo.com/blog/9-ways-guy… . Somewhere in my brain it struck me as a funny idea, it took about ten minutes to work out, and about two hours to draw and colour in. I put it on the internet and said 'HEY HA I KNOW, RIGHT?'. Then I forgot about it.

INTERNET RULE NUMBER 1 - THE INTERNET MAKES THE RULES.

The internet is a creature unto itself. It decides what happens to you, it can crush your dreams or make a meme out of your effluvia. It demands a constant diet of both the beautiful and the flimsy, chewing them up like gristle and bones, and letting the resultant multicoloured goopy vomit spill down its own front, urging you to pick out the best lumps, the ones that show kittens or bosoms, as they flow past into its own sticky groin-forest. It's a constant barrage of THINGS and STUFF and while most of it is instantly forgotten as soon as it's processed, sometimes chunks of that bilious sensory bilge stick.

Now I'm not saying that my tawdry '9 Ways' strip made any lasting impact toward heightening human consciousness. On the contrary. It was a throwaway idea, a wry smirk, a diversion before I get back to drawing actual characters and stories. But if you're an artist, showing your work on the internet, usually it's the things that are more general and MOR-comedy-lite-ish like this which get the most attention - if you can do a gag about an iphone or the noises old people make when they sit down, it'll probably get shared around quite a bit. These, your disposable offerings. If you want to make the internet work for you, start doing this type of comedy. But make sure you have some good quality stuff to link people back to.

My 9 Ways strip got shared on reddiciousupon, i forget which. Within a couple of days, it had 60,000 views. Other countries ran it, and the stats kept spiking over and over again, getting it well over 100,000 views in a week. Seemingly, it was sparking debate and people were having their own little arguments about which points were right, which they didn't understand, which had been left out, and how they just liked to lie on their back and pee everywhere (10. 'The Fountain'). It caught me by surprise that people were looking at this in number, but if they liked it, they could follow it back to my website and see the other work I did, and hopefully enjoy it.

Now, I put a lot of work online for free. I mean a lot. More than I'm advised to. Whole books and numerous webcomics, all there to read, and that's how I prefer to do things. I don't draw to get attention or to earn money (THOUGH BOTH ARE NICE DEAR GOD BOTH ARE NICE), I do it because I enjoy doing what i do a stupid amount and like to share it for other people to enjoy it too, if their sense of humour is similar to mine. But when an infographic (is it? It's not. Is it?) like the '9 Ways' strip is getting more views than most of my webcomics, it would be stupid to miss an opportunity to actually earn a little buck out of free content. So I quickly put it together in a more orderly form and the next day it was on sale as a high-quality print in the Topatoco store www.topatoco.com/merchant.mvc?… it's there! you can buy it!). A wealth of people commented they would buy the SHIT out of it, a print like that is such a great idea.  And with a constant stream of people seeing the strip online, along with the newly added adverts telling them about its printy-ness, I wondered if maybe just for a second I had worked out how to get the internet to work for me.

And that's when I learned..

INTERNET RULE NUMBER 2 : THE INTERNET IS FULL OF LIES.

What percentage of this 100K (and rising) viewers do you think bought the print? That's right, NONE PERCENT. I think maybe 1 person did. My plan to reach through the internet's river of sick and milk one of its nipples had failed. Hey don't get me wrong, I don't expect anyone to buy anything, but it is worth remembering that what people can see for free they won't pay for, despite what they say. That's perfectly logical actually, in hindsight. Stupid Jamie.

So I forgot about the '9 Ways' strip, and carried on doing actual work. What an exciting and bewildering foray into internetty attention that was. I wasn't sure what lessons I had learned, but if I had learned any, I'd work them out and write a blog about them someday (HERE NOW THIS IS IT). And then, a few weeks ago, something strange happened. I began to experience a part of the internet's sparkling chunderfall that I hadn't seen before, i began tasting bits of it which tasted bitter and sour instead of the usual sweet and doughy. And suddenly, like so many artists before me, I was learning

INTERNET RULE NUMBER 3 - THE INTERNET IS A BIG FAT SWEATY STEALING BASTARD.

It was pointed out to me that the strip had appeared on some daily-joke website, but without any credit to me. If someone saw this hallmark of hilarity, how could they possibly find me from it, to search frantically around my website for more piss-jokes? Then it appeared on other websites, similarly without credit. In fact, it wasn't just without credit, someone had photoshopped my name and website OFF THE PICTURE. And worse, they had put their own name ON IT. I say they, I mean ROLF.TO (no i don't know either, I think it's some shitty daily-joke website).

(although I have noticed other websites doing the same). There and then, I questioned the entire point of the human race. What sort of stupid, nasty, repulsive, cock-nosed human being would find an artist's work, and replace the credit with their own website? What sort of fetid, snivelling, wretched, unoriginal leech would claim someone's art as their own? What sort of disgusting, immoral, turgid, inbred, fuckwit THIEF would even bother to do that? To put that effort in? Instead of just leaving it as it is, which would be easier and right-er-er. Is this really how people spend their time, instead of coming up with their own ideas?

I couldn't find the picture on their website itself, just the dirty rotting trail they'd left by dragging my comic's carcass around the internet. They've probably buried it underneath a pile of other work they're claiming the credit for. Thankfully, just recently I have seen people start to recognise what's going on, and where this newly-named ROFL.TO comic is shared, good internet people will cry shenanigans and tell people where to find MY work. So I'm starting to see traffic coming from what they stole. A tiny, fractional amount of traffic, but the indignation of other people is appreciated.

So, if I do other comics like this, I'm going to have to watermark my name across them like a fucker. Sorry, but anything to stop these repugnant, odious, piss-soaked corpse-felchers trying to stick their name on my work. This won't affect most of what I do, my usual comics and webcomics are characters and concepts which would be useless to this type of thoughtless pilfering. But if I ever do a strip about how white guys can't dance or some kind of hentai involving Alf and Metal Mickey, expect to see a faint haunting image of my face slapped all over it.

In summary, what have we learned about the internet? We have learned that for an artist, the internet is not just the vomit to look at, it is the vomiter. A huge, hysterical mother, both encouraging and yet violent, supportive and yet malicious, all at once. With this trail of goop rolling down her belly, in turn both nutritious and utterly useless. An angry, squarking, lying, monster of a woman, mostly bosoms, wearing a chain of kittens, branding her name onto your confused stupid face while she rams her fat sticky fingers into your EYES.

Good luck out there.
A mangy wolf wandering through the woods spots a large pack of wolves over in the distance. He edges forward and tries to merrily canter alongside it, but the dominant male is a bit of a dick and kicks him out. So he decides to form his OWN pack. He finds other lone wolves and tells them how great he is, and soon they begin to follow him around. Soon, he has a small community of his own, and he is the dominant male. He climbs on the back of one of the other wolves, shouting 'LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT I'M DOING'. His followers look at him blankly. Some of them wander off into the woods, a bit dismayed at this ungracious behaviour. Some stick with him, hoping he won't do it again. Some liked it a bit.

He does it again. And again. Shouting his own praises with a slightly confused look in his eyes. Other wolves wander over to see what's going on. His pack undulates with all the new additions and new deserters, but steadily grows with bemused, slightly irritated onlookers. Many of them have their own packs, but this shouting wolf can be heard throughout the woods, and is hard to ignore, like a giant shouting wolf-tit.

LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT I'M DOING.

This is the self-contained shit bubble you find yourself in as a freelance artist. You sit hopelessly at home, on your own, flailing your arms about as long as you can until you have to knuckle down and get on with work. In the huge swathes of procrastination between productivities, your little window into nearly-social interaction is your monitor, giving you the reams of useless internet to look at. Social networking, however, is EXCUSABLE. It nearly counts as work! Twitter, facebook, tumblr, oh god knows all the other crap you're meant to be on, all of them give you someone to talk to and, more importantly, somewhere to shout about yourself. But if you want to shout, you need to find people to listen, so you first have to go around hoarding people into your own little collective. The dominant male artist did it, he has fifteen squiffion friends, some of whom are like artists like so cool they don't even exist. How the fup did he get so many friends? He must be super rich or some shit, because his art ain't so hot. Anyway since you despise him so much, you add him as a friend/follower, then find his arty friends and add them. You tell them you've done this thing, is a drawing, maybe you've drawn Catwoman kicking a baby. That's pretty out-there. Internet likes out-there, right?

You drag your nets through endless obscure forums, telling everyone and anyone who'll listen about your drawing. You also add a disclaimer that you're super proud of it, but it's shit and you'll do better. That's a failsafe statement, it covers ALL bases, ain't no one going to criticise you. And slowly, you've started to build your own little community. Your own pack.

Now this community's there, what do you do with it? You're going to spam the crap out of it, because you have a new drawing, this time of a crappy stickman saying something racist but NOT racist because it's IRONIC racist. But in your mind, it's not spam. It's telling people who appreciate your work that you have a NEW work for them to see, how kind of you to bring it to their attention. That's how you justify it, anyway. In reality, it's a clawing, needy LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT I'M DOING, coupled with a whispered *please validate my existence*.

Few hours later, you do it again. You head into forums and leave links everywhere. You update your flumbr, twatbook, twickr, every art-sharing platform you've ever heard of. Maybe a bit later you'll do it again. And again.

Lone wolf, you're annoying the pack.

Thing is, to show your art around you kinda have to. It's no use sitting at home drawing things if no one sees them, not if you're trying to make this a career anyway. You may as well be drawing Schrodinger's Cat (clever). The freelancing arty doesn't have a PR machine or a ready-made street team of sychophants, you have to build a following by yourself, one by one, and then preach to that following what THEY ALREADY KNOW over and over again. It's like you're pounding and hitting and smashing your way through someone's face, hoping they'll tell their friends how great you are, and yet you risk alienating them because you're pounding and hitting and smashing them in the face (it's EXACTLY like that). This endless need for self-promotion and selling yourself (which isn't a natural instinct in an artist) is catered for incredibly easily with every new social platform, a new silver dish to serve your silly little drawing to the ambivalent diners. But the slog, the endless LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT I DID, doesn't just tire your audience, it tires you too. And the GUILT. You know those who are watching you do this, the people/artists/employers who must have at one time respected you, are putting up with it rather than enjoying it, but still you continue. It feels so cheap, and so unnatural. You're a big fat immovable prostitute, too socially-awkward to go out and search for punters but content to lean out your window and shout at them once an hour.

These packs, these communities, we form around ourselves. It's not vanity. It's not security. It's something that starts out as self-promotion, becomes appreciation, and often ends up as friendship. And what do we do with these new friends, we remind them we're here again and again and again and again. And they smile sweetly, without the heart to tell us to stop. Because they know if they did, we'd shit ourselves, slump to the floor and shut down.

If you follow me on twitters, facebooks, whatever else, this is my way of trying to express some of the horrific and confused emotions artists manage to put themselves through just trying to communicate. By nature we're timid, shy, often nocturnal, but online we're compelled to frantically push ourselves in front of you, despite our once delicate graceful fingers having become all fists and hammers. Artists have to lay flat across the internet as if it were quicksand, because we're terrified that standing up will sink us. All the self-promos, pushy self-RTs and endless stream of self-whoring make us feel bad for punching you in the face, but this is the internet. And that's what people do. And it's about time we grew the balls to do it too, and stopped making up confusing wolf analogies about it in blogs we wrote because we were trying to avoid doing any work HEY YEAH, ENOUGH WITH THE APOLOGISING. ARTISTS SHOULD BE PROUD, AND TELL EVERYONE.

LONE WOLF! KEEP GOING! TO THOSE WHO AREN'T LISTENING IT JUST SOUNDS LIKE BARKING!
Quite often you work on things not even thinking about what the end result will be, or what you're going to do with it. Kochi Wanaba was one such thing for me, a real labour of love but with no clear end product planned, I just knew I wanted to do it. Once finished, I toyed with the idea of self-publishing but quality control put paid to that, so instead I decided to put the whole thing online. And I'm very glad I did, I was touched by how wrapped up in it people became, and there were a lot of calls to release the material as a book.

In my mind, the idea of it being a book was always a bit of a lost opportunity. I can't say why, in case you haven't read it yet and it spoils anything for you, but it would make sense. So I'm very pleased to say that Blank Slate will be publishing Kochi Wanaba. Blank Slate are really rising through the ranks as one of the best UK publishers, (check out some of their titles and artists here www.blankslatebooks.co.uk/ ), worth noting that their book Psychiatric Tales by Darryl Cunningham just hit number one in the amazon graphic novels list! Congrats!

So finally, yes, we're making it a book. For release when, not quite sure. It'd be optimistic to say this year perhaps, but as soon as possible. Thing I learned with Kochi is it was rather tricky to print, and print well, while retaining the pencils properly, so there needs to be a bit of working out as to how best to do this. What I can say is for me, publishing Kochi as a book is a great opportunity to show all the work that didn't make it online. There are a ton of pages and sketches which didn't fit in, and I'd like to explain a few things in there too. We'll make sure it's a beautiful thing.

In the meantime, if you haven't read Kochi yet,  www.kochiwanaba.com <--  YOU CAN READ IT NOW (contains swearing and violence) or just wait for the book.

Phew, two book announcements in two days! Mental innit. One last mention, i'll be at MCM Expo in London tomorrow (saturday), signing between 11 and 1. So do come along. Follow me on www.twitter.com/jamiesmart twitter and i'll try and say where in the comics village it'll be (as soon as i know), in case you want to be one of the first five to bring a copy of Find Chaffy and win a Chaffy toy!
I'm really pleased to say that a whole bundle of my Where's The Doctor picture searches will form their own book, published by Penguin, released this October.

PLEASED? I'm more than pleased. A Doctor Who book with my name on it, that's pretty darned exciting, and another of those things I've known for a little while but couldn't say until it was made official. Now Penguin have it on their site, I'm guessing it's public knowledge.

If you want to see the cover, check out a little preview of it on my blog, where i wrote this post originally :) ITS HERE -> www.fumboo.com/blog/wheres-the…

In case you missed it, I've been drawing large picture searches for the new magazine partwork Doctor Who Monster Invasion, which I blogged about a little while ago. Each picture hides the Doctor, Amy, Rory and a few other things in amongst some of the great monsters from the series. Incidentally, issue two is out RIGHT NOW, featuring a picture search set in a Sontaran boot camp. Available in all good shops what do magazines, GO GO GO!

I'm not entirely sure which searches will appear in the book, so it's still worth buying the magazine in the meantime (it's a great magazine anyway). The cover of the book shows the inside of the Dalek mothership, which at the time was the most complicated picture I'd drawn. Twenty-odd pictures later, I can say I'm topping that :)

(note: it's a struggle writing blogs like this without swearing excitedly. You will notice a more careful tone to my words *HRRRRGGG*)
Corporate Skull is the story of...well maybe i won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet. Go and have a look www.corporateskull.com/comic/s… and see what you think. Does contain swearing, bloodshed, and hamsters as hat-wear.

Thank you SO much to everyone who has read, enjoyed and spread the word about Skull. I've seen a lot of reviews, a lot of podcast mentions and a lot of general recommendations about it bouncing around the internets, and i'm really appreciative of all of it. Especially since when it first started, there wasn't that much to go on, but still people were digging it. Me, I was real keen to get the story moving along, much as I wanted to spend time building some characters at the beginning, I was getting kind of itchy to get into some hard Skull action. So now we have our Skull, we have ourselves a comic.

If you want to comment or share Corporate Skull around, please do. Word of mouth keeps these things afloat, and if you can think of any way to help spread the word I'd love to hear it. Anything anyone can do to get Skull to more people is, needless to say, VERY appreciated. If you do interviews/reviews of Skull let me know! Or if you wanna just chat about what you think's going on, i'll try and reply to comments more often!

And oh yeah, issue two. Lets meet back here on friday and talk about when.
Hey! Keep SATURDAY 28TH MAY free yeah? Not only is that weekend the MCM Comic Expo in london, which plays host to some crazy batshit fun (and a HOST of amazingly talented comic types in www.londonexpo.com/comicvillag… the comic village), but my own slovenly self will be turning up to do a signing/draw/bark at you. It's scheduled for 11 till 1, so do come along if you can make it and i'll draw on your bottom (won't). Obviously I'll post a bit more about this before the actual event.

Also about ME, i did an interview with the excellent shadowlocked.com HERE www.shadowlocked.com/interview… , where i chat about Desperate Dan, Bear, Dr Who, shoot my mouth off about rubbish artists, and other general whiffery-whaffery. HAVE A READ.

I capitalise because i'm needy. BYE.
Corporate Skull, my new webcomic, begins now at www.corporateskull.com with a special 10-page opener.
(contains swearing and humour which may offend, discretion is advised)

I haven't done this kind of thing before, planned a comic so big it contains actual story-arcs and plots. Normally what i do is whimsical and immediate, mainly because my own concentration is so poor i can't drag a story past a handful of pages. But in the last few years I've become a lot more fascinated with actual storytelling, and have been quietly working on a few different projects to construct some tall tales. Corporate Skull is the first to see light.

See this was intended to be a big comic. 600 pages. And it's all been worked out - i know what i want to happen, how it all turns out, what appears where (y'know, almost as if i knew what i was doing). I've never spent so long working on something BEFORE actually drawing it, in this case it's been two years of filling up notebooks with the plans. And trying to draw in a style I felt comfortable, Corporate Skull has gone through a lot of changes to end up looking like it does now, a LOT. My impulse is normally to rush into things, I'm really impatient, so it was a challenge to find some self-restraint and not start this comic until it was absolutely ready.

My concern is that I won't make it to the end. I know I can get distracted and dedicating yourself to big projects like this is daunting. Personally I look at drawing these pages as my time-off from working on children's books, giving my head a little profane release, and so hopefully that will carry me along. But like any webcomic, it really thrives off feedback, support and comments. So if you like it, dislike it, whatever, please do comment. Lets be honest, knowing you're doing something people enjoy can often be the spur you need to keep doing it.

I'll post up all of issue one over time (probably a new page every week, maybe a couple a week, I don't want to start any schedules I can't keep so it may be sporadic, but just follow me on twitter if you want to see when new ones appear). Once issue one is done i'll go a bit quiet, get issue two into shape, and then so on.
Enjoy!

jx