Author Archives: Stephen

Scurry – Book 1: Doomed Colony

Written, illustrated and lettered by Mac Smith.

Introduction to the Scurry series from the Scurry website (which also hosts the ongoing webcomic of Scurry):

Scurry is the story of a colony of mice in an abandoned house who are struggling to survive a long, strange winter. The humans are all gone and the sun is rarely seen. As food becomes scarce and many mice fall ill, the scavengers are forced to search farther from their home, braving monster infested lands in search of anything that will help the colony survive another day. Being hunted by feral cats and predatory birds is part of life for these mice, but beyond the fences stalks something far more fearsome…

Scurry is a webcomic that I had been dipping in and out of. It’s a beautiful looking comic that is similar in tone to some of the movies that I loved in my youth. Movies such as the Dark Crystal, Secret of NIMH and the Never Ending Story. Smith himself does mention that they had an influence on his work in the afterword of Book 1.

Once Smith announced his Kickstarter for Book 1, I just had to pledge to the campaign. The comic looks great on-screen but I really wanted a physical comic. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy webcomics but I do try get physical copies if the creators decide to release them. Especially with the previews Smith posted and the option of a slipcased hardback.

The story opens with Wix (a mouse) and Umf (a rat) searching an abandoned house for food to bring back to the colony. All the while they must avoid poison, traps and cats. The colony itself is facing starvation as they are running out of supplies with winter face approaching. Word reaches the colony of an overturned truck containing food outside the area the foraging groups usually travel.

The whole comic is of a really high standard and I find it amazing that it’s freely available to read as a webcomic. If you haven’t already made a start on reading Scurry, you really should make a start on it. The artwork itself, both characters and the sets/backgrounds are stunning.

You can read the comic (as well as buy book 1 whiles stocks last) on the Scurry website.

Odie and Ferg

Okay, so we’ll start with the finished comic pages and pick up after with some thoughts on the making of it.

Page 1.

Page 2.

Page 3.

Page 4.

Welcome back! So that was ‘Odie and Ferg’. It’s the first comic I’ve completed in the best part of twenty years. And it could have another while yet before I finished one if Matt Garvey hadn’t posted his competition over on the Millarworld forums.

He posted a competition open to people who had long wanted to make a comic but had gotten round to it for whatever reason. The only rule for participants was that all involved in making a comic couldn’t have made a comic before be it a physical comic or webcomic. After that, Garvey outlined the spec for the submissions. At the basic level, it had to be a 4-page funny sci-fi comic. Solo creators could make the comic or a writer, artist, colourist and letterer could team up (once they were all newbies!).

It was exactly the sort of thing I needed to get making. I had a spec, a deadline and potentially an opportunity to see the comic in printed form. The fact it was all going to be newbies was an added incentive as it would be less intimidating to submit as it’s my first comic. That said, I did keep away from the submission thread until I was posting my comic as I still expected the comics to be of a higher standard than my own offering.

So, then came the actual making of the comic. The main characters were easy sorted. I knew instantly that it was going to be a duo. It’s a 4-pager so it necessitated getting the characters introduced quickly. The need for the strip to be funny was also a factor. A duo allows me play to the comedy writing that I can work best with, i.e. a ‘straight man’ and a smart-ass. I’d a pretty good sense of the duo before writing anything down so it meant I was pretty comfortable with their respective personalities.

The next bit of fun came from figuring out what works within the four pages without having the comic suffer due to unnecessary story or details. Initially, the story was going to be Odie and Ferg appearing in a ‘space gladiator royal rumble’. It didn’t take long to realise that 1) the idea was too much to pull off in four pages and 2) I didn’t have time to draw a large cast of characters. So a pin was stuck in that idea for now. Then the idea for the strip I actually produced appeared. The last page was the starting idea and I worked back from there. All I needed was a reason for the pursuit. Given that it was to be a funny comic, I slotted the idea of it being down to Odie eating the wrong pineapple.

Happy that I’d figured out the story and most of the dialogue, I moved to the arting. After the first day of drawing a tweet I’d seen had come to mind about drawing comics. Paraphrasing here, but it was something along the lines of, “pin ups are all well and good, but you need to draw sequentials!”. That was a hard lesson to learn. I’d started drawing regularly over the last two years and was pretty happy with the results. But as you have no doubt figured out from the quote, I’d mainly focussed on pinp-up/ one-off pieces. I’d given feck all time to sequentials.

This was one of the most frustrating parts of the comic making, the realisation that your ‘base level’ art is nowhere near the level you think it is. The one saving grace was that due to following lots of comic art folk, I’d been made aware that spending time on thumbnails could save you heartache and wasted time later. That said it was still had to swallow how I had to draw the comic if I wanted a consistent visual across all four pages. I wanted to keep reference photo use to a minimum (though there still is some there) for the sake of consistency and to establish where the art levels were at.

The next thing to push through was getting all the pages done even though the end product doesn’t match the comic in your mind. Though from what I later read, this is a problem for creators at all levels of comic making. But I have to say, even though the art is rough as houses, it still felt great to have the four pages finished and to be able to scan through them to see how the panels work for a reader. This is where the time spent on thumbnails had really paid off. I had an idea of what I wanted and I was pretty happy that I got as close as my abilities would allow.

Regarding the lettering, all I’ll say is that I apologise to any letterers who saw the comic. Placement wise they’re not too bad but how the text is positioned within some of the bubbles is pretty bad on review. Single lines where it should have been multiple lines with fewer words on each. But hey, I learned that much if nothing else regarding lettering!

 In the aftermath of making the comic for the competition, I’d say to anyone putting off getting a start on their comic making to just get started. You’ll certainly find no better way to discover what you need to work on. And even when you’re starting out, you can still get the comic close to what you intended. I just put in silly plot and dialogue that made me laugh. Some of the jokes landed with some of the people that read the comic. Which is nice when you’re apprehensive about putting the comic out into the wild. Another weird (but nice) side-effect was wanting to get onto the ‘next thing’ so that ‘Odie and Ferg’ isn’t where my comic making peaks. I want to push things on to show that the writing and drawing can get stronger from lessons learned on the comic I made.

I like Odie and Ferg, they make me smile and they deserve better strips that will come with time and work. It’s kinda exciting to have characters of my own that are recent creations. Really looking forward to seeing what they get up to next and what other characters start to make themselves known.

So if you’ve been putting off making your comics, I say just make a start. Find your ‘Odie and Ferg’. Make something that only you can make! And have fun with it!

Some weekend arting

I had some time over the weekend for some drawing, so decided to have a go at the digital arting.

March Art Dump

This is a brief post. Just doing an art dump of pictures I drew during the month of March.

I’d received some very helpful pointers about approaching composition as well as how to hold the pencil to get better lines. Overall, a very positive month for the drawing.

And I even managed to get in some digital arting!

 

Some recent reading and art.

Seeing as it’s most of the way through February, I figure it’s about time to post an update here. Try to keep things somewhat regular in terms of posting on here.

At the start of the year I was mulling things over regarding writing, particularly with a view to doing posts for here or Irish Comic News. My main focus was to try and find things to read to try and improve the writing, be it websites, magazines or books.

As luck would have it a non-fiction book featuring such names as Warren Ellis and Alan Moore appeared on my radar (cover pictured below). It was an instant purchase for me, both as a fan of some of the writers involved and as a possible source for learning more about writing non-fiction.

The book was a wonderful read. It will definitely be one of those books I frequently re-read. It has a great variety of voices and styles. There are twelve pieces in total examining the ‘spirit of places’.

What quickly became apparent (from a learning point of view) was what each writer discussed, as well as the details they focussed on in their respective contribution. It emphasised the idea of the writer bringing something to a topic that only they can bring to it. Something to make it unique from a piece that another writer would have written.

Another thing was the almost conversational language used in the various pieices. It generally felt as if I was sat at a table listening to the writer tell their story. Which is close to what I’d like to get to with the reviews and blog posts. Definitely would like to avoid dry and stuffy writing which would just put people off. I want to try have the writing read much like what it is to listen to me chat about comics. That’s ethusiastic, interested and probably a bit giddy for those that I’ve not chatted to!

It’s an excellent book that I really recommend to people if you want to read some good non-fiction.

I’ve a couple of other non-fiction books in the pile but I’ll fill you in on them once I get a proper read of them.

On the art side of things, I managed to get back into the swing of doing some drawings during the week. I’ve included the most recent drawings I did below. That’s all for now.

Brief update.

This will be brief update as it’s really just a post to put it online that I’m planning to take a swing at the competition Matt Garvey put up over on MIllarworld forums.

I’d started to get back into the swing of some writing and drawing and that competition was just the sort of motivation/goal to aim for. It’ll give a bit of focus to things. If nothing else, I’d (all going well) have a four page comic done. That in itself would be a good result.

In another comic related note, I’m very much looking forward to the Image 25 year celebration organised by Big Bang Comics. Should be fun!

For those of you interested in the Irish Comic News art picks, the January edition is now live. So go enjoy the great selection of arting!!

That’s all I have for you lot until the next post. I’ll leave with some arting I did towards the end of 2016.

Tested out caligraphy pens for inking. (reference photo used)

Obligatory ‘New Year, new things’ post.

It’s a new year so it’s time for that ‘gonna do more posts’ post.

For all of last year, this blog was left idle aside from the occasional share from my tumblr account. Part of the reason for that was that I started to post on Irish Comic News

My main focus was the monthly Art Picks. This is a feature which rounds up a selection of art produced by artists and colourists who are part of the Irish comic scene. It was great to see so much art and to discover some new names I’d not heard of prior to taking on the feature.

In addition to the Art Picks feature, i also did some reviews of various comics. It was fun to do but I’m quite conscious that the standard of my posts need to improve to get the level that I’d like to get to. This is part of the reason I’m doing this post to try and revive the blog.

The plan is to write more, particularly reviews (or just some form of rambling) about comics. Anything related to the Irish comic scene will end up on Irish Comic News. However I do have a regular comic reading pile which I plan to try do some writing about here as it wouldn’t be something to go up on ICN.

These could be titles from publishers such as Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Boom! etc. or something via Kickstarter / small press.

The hope is the increased frequency of writing about comics will slowly improve the writing.

Not only that but it will also be a place for me to collate my drawings as they’re currently scattered between Twitter and Facebook rather than somewhere under my own control.

So that’s me done laying out my goal for the blog this year.

And since you managed stick through to the end, here’s some art I did as part of Inktober last year.

Devil Dinosaur and Moon Girl.

Kill Bill.


Kubo and Two Strings.


Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Art Spiegelman

Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Art Spiegelman from The Fisher Center on Vimeo.

Writing Blog Hop

This blog post is the result of not being able to talk my way out of doing something. Seriously. You might think you have the perfect excuse to dodge doing the work, but some folk just won’t be deterred. That’d be Frankie Whelan in this case (his blog hop post here). You can find out about his books here.

So without any further delays, let’s crack on with the questions.

1. What am I working on?

I’m currently working on three separate stories that I hope to eventually make into comics. The story that has my primary focus currently is a short story about a moutain climber. It’s still in the very early stages so there isn’t much to it yet aside from the lead character and a couple of scenes in the story.

The second is a story about a young man that has a reality that exists in parallel to ours revealed to him. The creatures that populate that world are quite different from anything he has ever seen before. The story will follow him as he attempts to survive this new reality.

The third is about an outcast mage living among regular people. He has to take action when a war between various magical factions begin to threaten those he cares about.

2. How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

I would like to think that there are unique characters not seen before in other writings. And a different twist on familiar stories. It’s still early days with the writing so I’ve yet to see if the writing measures up to my aspirations.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I enjoy the magic of creating characters and seeing what happens to them in the world they inhabit. There really is nothing quite like writing a story, it’s one of the few truly free things a person can do. Something that didn’t exist is slowly built up by pen or keyboard.

Writing is something that I’ve always done. I can remember writing my own comics and short stories from a very young age. My dad would bring home a box of paper from work so I was never short of something to write on. It was just such a natural past-time for me growing up. It was probably all the gods, monsters and super-heroes that appealed to me then, and still does.

4. How does my writing process work?

Almost without fail, it begins with a character. They appear in my head and slowly reveal parts of their personality and their mannerisms. Then it’s a matter of getting them to explain what it is they want to do.

Once I have a feel for the story, I try and get the major plot points noted down to get a sense of the overall story. The next course of action is to put together the first draft of the story. This will allow me to see where the plot holes are or what isn’t working in the story.

This isn’t going so well with the current stories as the dreaded writers block has put the brakes on any progress. Usually when this happens I’ll move over to another story I’m working on. But this time all the stories are currently at an impasse. Even going back to an earlier point in the story hasn’t helped. So the stories have been put away in the hope that a spark of inspiration will happen while reading a book or watching a movie.

And so here I am doing the blog hop in the hope that putting a blog post together will get the old writing/creative gears turning once again. All finger-crossing and rabbit-foot rubbing will appreciated. 😉

August, the month of metal and wookies

August was the month that finally put me in a venue with Tesseract. They are a band that I have really wanted to see live since my brother gave me a listen to one of their albums. The band are a metal band that have a strong emphasis on the melodic side of metal. Their songs sweep and surge until you are dragged into the undertow. As you can guess, I was a fan shortly after hearing the album.

The band were in town as support to Lamb of God. Their set was fantastic with the sound system in the venue doing the band justice. All of the melodic parts and heavier parts were there in their aural beauty. If there is any justice in the world Tesseract will soon be huge in the metal music scene. I’ve embedded one of their songs below for any of you that are interested.



I decided this month to try and fit in more comic reading into my week. Thankfully I have a nice selection of graphic novels to help achieve this goal. The first series I decided to re-read was Y: the Last Man.

I read it about two years ago and remember really enjoying it. The main reason I chose it as the first comic to read this time was the lack of superpowered or supernatural characters. All characters are pretty much human, secret agents and ninjas notwithstanding of course.

The premise is a simple one, and you’ve no doubt guess by the title, what would happen to the last man on Earth? Would the Earth become a utopia free of war and conflict once men all die off or would things be much the same as before?

I’m enjoying the second reading of the series and finding it to be funnier in parts than I remember. It’s a good series if you’re looking for a comic to check out.

August was also the month a wookie came to town in a luxury car. The cannonball run passed by neck of the woods early one Sunday morning in August. A rolling convoy of expensive cars with the passengers and drivers in fancy dress. There were a variety of costumes in the group but naturally the wookie was the highlight of the bunch. It was great to see so many people taking part and the large number of people that showed up to support it also.

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