An everyday story of leftwing folk

Thursday, 30 December 2010

What will 2011 bring for the Policy Police?

Three things.

First of all, BARGAINS! Blurb has sent me some promotional codes so that you can get free flat-rate shipping on one order placed before 31st January 2011. This will allow you to get up to 3 books sent (via the slowest method - ie post) for FREE. I think these codes may also count for DISCOUNT on the more expensive shipping methods. Anyway. Here are the codes and amounts in whatever your local currency may be. You should enter the code (ie SHARE, or whatever) in the box provided at checkout. And get up to 3 of my books for a mere £3.25 each.

US ($6.99) = SHARE
GBP (£3.99) = SHAREUK
CAD ($7.99) = SHARECAN
AUD ($9.99) = SHAREAUD

January will also bring the last of the recent batch of one- and two-part stories. It's going to be a sequel to Cutting a Dash, which is about 18 months old now. It asks the question, "What happens to the dashboard when the strategy changes?"

Then the rest of 2011 will be taken up with a new 11-part Policy Police story. This one gets a bit dark at times, as austerity begins to bite within The Agency.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

A Merry Christmas to all our readers

Here's a tag cloud Christmas card done on allegedly based on this blog.

Certainly gives some kind of insight into how robots see us. I only ever did one post about Nana, for instance, but the number of times I had to say "Nana" to explain about Nana... see what I mean, I'm doing it again. I obviously use the contracted form of have (ie 've) a lot, too. Or at least I think that's what it means. And why some words I've only used once and not others... but I like it, cuz of its foibles not despite them.

Merry Christmas, people.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

"With regret... you're Fired."

I had The Meeting the other day. The one where you get the bit of paper that says you're being made redundant. By and large, The Organisation has done pretty well, followed all the procedures and done everything properly.

One of the things that had to be done was to "minimise compulsory redundancies". And they've done it. Only about 13 of us have actually opted to be pushed.

Back in June, when the closure had just been announced, there were 243 permanent staff members and 106 contractors. At the end of the day, there'll be about 12 in the closure team, about 45 TUPEd, and 13 compulsory redundancies. The contractors just had their plugs pulled and the rest took voluntary severance, or just left.

It's sheer bloody-mindedness that has led me to stand here and demand to be pushed. I know somebody, somewhere will say, "see, only 13 compulsory redundancies." Like everybody else had a choice. At least I can say, "AND I WAS ONE OF THEM." Maybe we ought to wear lilac in our hats like the Night Watch in Terry Pratchett's story.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Me and the minibar

Just a little under a year ago, there was a lot going down in hotels. In my world. You know, conferences, meetings, that sort of thing. In many ways it brings out the adolescent in people who should know better. Drinking, chasing the opposite sex. The sorts of things that were celebrated in the episode "Big Breakfast".

But there's another side to this hotel experience. The loneliness, the separation from your home, your support networks. So I thought of writing another hotel story, the flip-side of Big Breakfast. I was going to use the lyrics of the Dresden Dolls' song "Me and the minibar" as a monologue spoken by the Kid as she gets progressively drunk alone in her hotel room. And because the song ends with the refrain "Happy birthday, us" it was going to be the anniversary issue. But I decided to go with something lighter, to cheer people up. Though I do refer to this possible story in Frame 14 - which is pretty cryptic if you're not inside my head. Anyway, that was the song. And the Jameson-type cyborg is for Ghost in the Shell fans... cuz it looks like a minibar.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Policy Police: Anniversary Waltz

It’s been two years since I sent out the first Policy Police episode. Of course time doesn’t operate in quite the same way in the Policy Police universe. But I thought our heroes ought to celebrate, too. So I decided that though two years has passed for us, one year has passed for them.

You may have noticed some stylistic changes to the comic this month. I’ve decided that I’ve paid my dues with Paint, so I’ve graduated myself to Manga Studio Debut.

Manga Studio works really well with the tablet and “fakes” pen work brilliantly. It really is a joy to use. I’ve had to rework the basic drawings (again), but I think the new look is worth it. Also using layers gives me a lot more scope with things like beer cans and (I anticipate) sunglasses. And backgrounds. The list is endless.

The Manga Studio package can seem a bit daunting at first but the excellent tutorials at Mario Live have helped me get to grips with it quite quickly.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The seductiveness of bureaucracy...

I was talking to my partially-sighted colleague over lunch today, and she said that she found that she was liking the Kid less lately. I’m quite pleased about this, cuz it’s intentional. What I’m trying to do here is show how the world of the Agency can be seductive. How if you’ve been pretty powerless in your life, the bureaucracy offers so many opportunities to be powerful. Most obviously through whatever position you might occupy, but also through expertise, or through being a bottleneck, or through leveraging your powerful friends. But of course, it comes at a cost. A cost of losing at least a part of yourself. This is the Kid’s dilemma. Can she continue to work within the Agency and keep her self intact along the way? And it also gets us to realise that Faren and Zee were kids too once, and think about how they got to be the cynics/monsters/whatever they’ve become.

Friday, 12 November 2010

What's happening with Policy Police over the festive season?

I've been producing a bunch of one- or two-episode stories lately and not really progressing with the longer story I had planned. I've got the first episode written and ready to draw, and I kinda know where everything is going, but it remains very much in kit form.

I think this is because the "future" is still forming for me. When I look around my world it's still like the early part of an arm-wrestling contest, where the parties "take the strain" and size each other up. So, in general I'm feeling more comfortable with a shorter time horizon right now.

Anyway. This is my plan.

A single one-off episode around the end of the month. It'll be the last one before Christmas and falls at an auspicious time for all kinds of other things too. So it'll have an air of celebration about it. And something a bit different. But I'll leave that to be a surprise.

Then another one-off in early January. This will be a sequel to an old favourite. I wrote it a couple of days ago and I'm still chuckling, so it should act as some welcome New Year cheer.

Then I'll get down to the long story. Maybe

Friday, 5 November 2010

Policy Police: Pretty vacant, part 2.

One of my colleagues used the word “slapstick” to describe the first part of this one. I think that’s right. Kind of carries on in the same vein, too. As I think I said last month, it was inspired by the humour that is born out of the dispiriting task of closing your own organisation.

Pretty vacant(NB: as the comic-book version combines parts 1 and 2, this link goes to the same place as part 1)

 I’m conscious that the current situation is pulling me towards some quite dark places in this saga. But there’s lots of humour about the place. Can’t help but be inspired by a general atmosphere of silliness around the office.

I like the idea in this story of the ones that “got away”, maybe being a bit like those wonderful Russian agents who were expelled from the US a little while back. Carrying the Soviet Union in their hearts.

Which reminds me of another story...  On the banks of what now is Lake Nasser (it was, before the valley was flooded, on a crag, overlooking the Nile) is the ruin of the fortress Kasr Ibrim. It was one of the furthest outposts of the Ottoman empire. Several hundred years ago a garrison of Bosnians was stationed there to guard the empire against whatever threat sub-Saharan Africa might pose. They were sent, and duly forgotten about. As is the way with empires. As the years passed, they must’ve realised something was up, because they took up with local Nubian girls and started families. To this day, there are red-headed Nubians in southern Egypt who think they’re a cut above the others…

Thursday, 28 October 2010


A very oblique Policy Police influence this... Though I put snow in the current story because of Nana. I thought coldness was important for this story, chill winds and all that.

I've been reading the manga Nana since the Spring, then got a Region-free DVD of the anime series. I came to Nana by a roundabout route as I normally wouldn't have sought out Shojo (girls') manga. It's a story of the friendship between two young women, both called Nana, set against a background of sex and drugs and rock-and-roll.

I'm really fond of this manga cuz everybody's flawed in really human ways. It's something I try to bring into Policy Police, but this really shows how it should be done. The artist and writer of Nana, Ai Yazawa, was taken ill about a year ago and spent several months in hospital, so the manga has "paused" at quite a critical moment.

Anyway. Cuz I was in need of more Nana, I hacked my DVD player to make it Region-free, so I can watch Region 1 stuff now. So I got the first Nana (live action) movie and watched it last night. I was really impressed with the casting - I could watch these people and convince myself that they really were the 2 Nanas and the band, that the manga was drawn with them as models. Because the story had to be cut down for the movie, it focused more on Nana Osaki's back story than on Nana (Hachi) Komatsu's, so perhaps we understand Hachi's motivation a little less. But nice movie, so I'm Nana'd out for a bit and can delay getting the second movie for a while and keep fingers crossed for Yazawa sensei's recovery.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Policy Police: Pretty vacant, part 1.

This is the first of a two-parter. It's a bit of a diversion from what I was originally planning, but it's kinda topical so I thought I'd run with it.

Pretty vacant 1(NB: The comic-book version combines both parts in one. So this link and the one in part 2 both go to the same place)

Earlier in the summer, somebody reminded me of some work I did on the culture of our bit of the Organisation. That got me thinking about how culture might play out under stress in this parallel universe...

I wrote the bulk of what became this story while on a long weeekend with the family in a cottage in Wales. While they lay abed in the mornings, I'd be downstairs scribbling this lot.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Bonfire of the Quangos!

Well, not so much a bonfire as one of those fires that allotment gardeners make to try and burn the weeds they've just pulled up. Lots of smoke and not much heat. I've had a quick look at the long list of 900-ish NDPBs published by the British government, stating who is going/staying/merging/being-thought-about. The interesting thing for me was all the organisations that are not on the list. I wonder how many quango-yet-not-quango organisations there are? My gut tells me there's the same amount again of "sector organisations", lobby groups and the like who are wholly dependent on government finance, either directly or through some of the arms-length bodies on the list of 900. Be interesting to see what happens in these organisations when difficult money decisions have to be made. The PwC report today/yesterday said there'd be 500k private sector jobs (that depend on public sector work) going on top of a similar number of public sector.... There's a whole network of these things scratting around after tax money. I wonder how many people there are left who actualy do stuff...

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

...and another new Policy Police book

This time it's the novelisation (or, more strictly the short-storyisation) of the original story. I did this mainly for a partially-sighted colleague who is a great fan. It's been an interesting exercise. A bit harder than I thought it would be... or maybe I just got more ambitious for it having started. But it was interesting to get inside the characters' heads.  Anyway, its been such a short time since I put the black book in the right-hand column, I'm going to leave that as it is and just point you to the SHOP where you can find all three books.

I've been getting a bit behind with the next instalment, the first of a brand new story. Lots of reasons for this, partly cuz I've been spending my time on the books, and partly cuz starting a new story requires new characters and stuff, so more thinking time... Also I'm migrating to a new secondhand computer. I have been using a laptop with an external Wacom tablet, but I've now got one of those laptops with a swizzle screen that turns into a tablet. Much more comfortable to use, but has required a bit of set-up and getting used to. So... I'm guessing closer to the middle of the month than the start.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The new Policy Police book is out!

As you can see on the right or here...

Up close and personalised all brought together in one place. Also includes a bonus feature in which the kids in the boiler suits get their moment centre stage.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Policy Police: surplus to requirements

I wrote this episode shortly after the news broke that The Organisation was being closed down.

Surplus to requirements

It was going to be this year's Summer Special, but I'm glad the collaboration with Rob produced something less sombre. It also allowed some time to pass so I could make a judgement on its "rawness". In the end, I've decided to let it stand as I first did it.

Friday, 27 August 2010

What progress with Policy Police 2?

I'm quite pleased with how things are going with the next book. I've pretty much got the whole of the "Up close and personalised" into page form. Just a few tweaks and amends to do there. I've reduced the font size (it'll come out around 10pt in the final version) and the frame per page ratio is 3.2 as opposed 2.7 in the first book, so it's a slightly denser read. But I think it works better than the last one. Lessons learned and all.

All this means I've still got 10 pages for a bonus feature, and I've got the first two pages of that done, too. This time it's a separate comic-book story that gives a kind of alternative perspective on the Policy Police world.

I liked the idea of the kids in the boiler suits in episode 7, so I've given a bunch of them their own story. Maybe it's what is known in educational circles as "Learner Voice". These are the people who are "done to"  in this world. The object of the system. So I thought it'd be nice to hear them.

When I was at school,some of the larger kids liked to remind me, "the object suffers the action of the verb". I had a practical education. In fact a lot of our responses to being "done to" were practical. Practical jokes mainly. This way we stood a chance of winning. This was our turf, not theirs.

Anyway. I've tried to get something of that power-of-the-powerless thing over in the story.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Will the Policy Police survive public sector cuts?

Cuz of course I didn't. Right now, I'm in the Twilight Zone between working for the state, and not working for the state. Tying up loose ends etc before the Organisation ceases to be...

I did worry about whether I'd be able to carry on with the comic in these circumstances. But actually, I think it's OK. As long as I  don't get too isolated from the mad world of office politics (hint), there seems to be plenty coming up to keep our heroes busy.

In retrospect, making Gosman a subcontractor looks like a smart move. Not just some excuse to make the cop/subcontractor quip in Episode 3. So far it has allowed Gosman and Partner to move between different jobs and departments. And in the future it will enable them to avoid direct cuts, but maybe be a bit less choosy in their job hunting.

Can't remember if I've said this someplace else, but I'm already beginning to see some conflict between "the machine" and its political masters. I guess I'm going to have to become like one of those "Kremlin watchers" of days gone by. Interpreting the occasional ripple on the surface of the still waters of state.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Big Breakfast

Here we have the Bumper Fun Summer Special for 2010. Guest artist is my friend and colleague Rob Englebright.

Big Breakfast

I usually have to wait several months before I can really enjoy the ones I've done entirely myself. But I laughed like a drain when I got this one back. Partly cuz Rob is so good, but also because I don't have those niggling little thoughts about bits where I feel that with a bit more time...

And for those of you who didn't come here from there, you can follow Rob's current ongoing comic at

Thursday, 29 July 2010

New look.

Thought I'd give the site a newer, more bluish look. Can't think why...

The main reason is that I'm in the process of adding some pages to the blog to make it easier to find the main stuff. (See tabs just under the new banner). I felt that the links down the side were getting too long, so I've dedicated a page to The Stories and I'm going to try and embed all the back issues within the blog, and add a short title for each episode to make the whole thing more easily navigable. Well, that's the plan anyway.

Also with more coming out in book form in the not too distant future, I thought a dedicated Shop wouldn't go amiss. Finally there'll soon also be a page called "The Beans" as in spilling... where I'll collect various bits of background info together.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

About the book

I thought I'd post some stuff about the decisions I made while putting the book together. Somebody might find it useful.

I plumped for the standard black-and-white format. First because it made for a cheaper book, and second because the overall look I was after was your paperback manga tankobon. Blurb's page size here is 5"x8". This is a pretty regular mid-size paperback, maybe a teeny bit narrower than your average UK paperback.

The slide-show version was based on a 4x3 aspect ratio, so some cropping and overlapping was inevitable. I fitted the 18-20 frames for each episode on to 7 pages with a new "title page" for each episode. I made the pages in your everyday presentation software - at 10"x16" to increase my dots per inch in the final book. The text in the speech bubbles was 24pt which reduced down to a good 12pt.

Blurbs price bands are based on blocks of pages, the second band being 40-80 pages. I thought I might as well use my full quota, so I had about 10 pages for a bonus feature. I thought I'd share some of the facts that the Agency knows about some of the main characters.

Also 80 pages is the minimum that would allow printing of the book title on the spine. Well, its not a proper book without that is it? So that decided me.

For the next story, I've done some editing and gone for a more dense frame/page ratio, so that I can buy myself space for another bonus feature.  But more of that anon.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Up close and personalised episode 11

This story finally coming to an end. This one made my hair stand on end when I wrote it. Still does.
Up close and personalised episode 11

I wrote it last October - it all came out in a big splurge.  I felt that I finally got the "efficiency agenda" and why it made me feel uncomfortable.  But there's still optimism there. Or at least what passes for optimism in my head.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Reaching the LEARNER in Print!

I've been playing around on's self-publishing site and produced a book version of the first story.  I got the proof copy at the weekend and I'm really pleased with how it's turned out.  When I first thought of these things, I had a picture in my mind of the thing on paper.  This is pretty close to that original "vision".

I've added some bonus pages - all-new chapter headings plus background info on some characters. They're not available in any other format.

Anyway it's up there for anybody to buy on a print-as-you-go basis, and at not too hideous a price.

Check it out here

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Them pesky varmints and their cushy jobs...

I've been enjoying the news today about the General who was "caught" saying disrespectful things about President Obama, the Vice President and others.  We all know that the closer you get to the front line, the less respect people have for the suits back at headquarters.  In fact it probably applies to anybody who is more than a couple of layers up the hierarchy from where you are. 

Hmmm... I think I said someplace that that's where people think that "policy-making" happens. Just out of sight. No matter how high up you are, it's just over the next rise.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Up close and personalised episode 10

In which the Kid chases the would-be assassin into the night....

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Sneak Preview

I know it's some months off, but when I bundle all the episodes of Up Close... together into a single file, this will be the front cover. I got a bit distracted into this when I should have been doing something else this morning. Well, it's done now, and I couldn't resist sharing...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Taking stock

I'm definitely in the final straight with the current story. And I'm really pleased with how the final 2 episodes are shaping up.

I was a bit thrown by the Elvis impersonator appearing in the election campaign, and not as a fringe candidate either. I had planned the election into the run of the story - I could have dropped the "Election Special" into February, March or April - but I hadn't expected the King... Anyhow, I've decided to embrace the "real" Elvis and shamelessly use his song in the next episode. It was so much better than my original choice.

The Organisation looks set to enjoy a kind of half life for at least the next 6 months, so I do have some grace until I am jettisoned from the State bureaucracy. So this should allow me to carry on in my intended direction of travel as the chill wind of austerity whistles through the Agency.

And then, I hope, I should have an angle on where we go next.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Black Tears

I suppose the Kid cried black tears back in the dumpster in Reaching the LEARNER. It seems The Organisation is going to be closed down, so I wonder how many will cry to see it go. Whatever. We won't be crying in public, though, to get sympathy.

Hearing about these things from the BBC rather than your bosses certainly makes them worse. Now I know why people punch journalists out. Surprised it doesn't happen more often.

I suppose the Organisation's epitaph is that it failed to show the agility it insisted that the whole education sector needed to thrive in the future. Poetic justice, I guess.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Up close and personalised episode 9

Things start to fall apart as the team encounter some popular resistance to the Goodfellow Implementation.
Up close and personalised episode 9
NB This shows as chapter 8 in the Smack Jeeves format cuz we put the election special elsewhere
Every now and again, cynics will say that our current system is "beyond satire". I must admit that I was a little despondent a couple of weeks ago when Gordon Brown had Elvis introduce one of his electioneering press conferences.

Darn. I thought of it first. And everybody knows that Elvis is on the side of the people.

I've always given the advice that if you're feeling unsure about what to do in a presentation, "show them a picture of Elvis, everybody loves Elvis..." It's both heartening and worrying to see somebody following my advice, and managing to trump it so spectacularly.

The Elvis in the story comes from this press report from a year or so back. Got me thinking about vigilantes with movie-star names.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Thinking ahead.

Three episodes to go in the current story, so I'm having to think about what happens next to our heroes. I'm aiming for a summer break and starting a new big story in September. This was my plan last year, but I just couldn't resist dropping a summer special in, so who knows...

Anyhow, in some ways timing is good. I should have time to work out just what a change of administration would mean for The Agency. Having the FED is good - everybody is calling every type of money-saving "efficiency" these days. So the FED will be there claiming credit for everything. Though they know full well where efficiency ends and economy begins.

I used to work for a bank - some time ago now - but there were some guys called the "Performance Improvement Unit". Their job was to find departments they could get rid of, costs they could cut. Needless to say, everybody was scared of them. Smart people, too. Unusual in a bank. These people were my inspration for Angelus and the organisation she's part of.

Talking of scary, I'm also aiming to get Zee back behind her desk. She's not best pleased to have had our chums covering her absence, but she hasn't worked out what she's going to do about it.

So, all I can predict so far is budgetary constraint, the FEDs, and Zee...

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Further adventures off the beaten track

I've just read some official election guidance for government workers.  Looks like somebody, somewhere also thought about what "purdah" might say about us.  They say that it is "now commonly known as 'the sensitive period'."

Commonly? And "sensitive period" sounds like something made up by advertisers to sell a rancid yogurt drink, or painkillers maybe.

Still nowhere near the beaten track.

Postscript 13/04/10. The Organisation has opted to call it "the pre-election period". I'm proud of them.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Up Close And Personalised Episode 8

Our heroes hit a brick wall - in the shape of the General Election.
For those of you who don't work for the British Government, "Purdah" is the period from when an election is announced until it actually happens. During this time, civil servants and other government workers can't do anything that could be interpreted as "political". So all kinds of things get postponed or shut down. Often at the whim of managers who are scared of being caught making a mistake.

Anyways. It's called "Purdah". It has definite hints of Empire about it. Some civil servant at some time in the past must have thought it was the height of wit.

It all reminds me of a time (nearly 20 years ago now) I was on a bus heading into Solihull. There were two black guys sat behind me, one of them obviously on his way to start a new job.

"What's Solihull like," he asked his friend.

"It's a bit ... off the beaten track," replied the other.

Just then we drove past the pub called "The Old Colonial" in Damsonwood.

"See what I mean," he added.

I've come to think that large chunks of the government machine are just as "off the beaten track".

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Thought I’d take you back in time.  It really is a long, long time now.  A different world, when I think of it.  But yet, but yet…

As you can see below, the first picture is the cover of Solidarity for Social Revolution 8, dating from 1979.  The role of “editor” of this journal was passed between the various small groups here and there around the country that made up Solidarity.  A bunch of us based in Coventry, Birmingham and Oxford volunteered to take on the editorship for this issue.  People descended on our house in Hollis Road, Coventry armed with the requisite paper, Letraset, glue, scribbled articles and a borrowed electric typewriter.

SFSR was the result of a merger between two groups, Solidarity and Social Revolution.  It was not entirely a happy merger.  The group was rent with internal strife, much of it carried forward from pre-merger days, but also some new conflict as the two parts tried to come to terms with each other.

The cover you see here was my work.  It’s rough and ready, for sure. I did the work through the last night before the deadline for print.  It illustrates a general critique of the left that we were formulating at the time that was given extra edge by plenty of internal finger-pointing, too.  It went something like this.  Leftism was increasingly being used as a personal therapy by largely guilt-ridden, middle-class hangers on, who were wallowing in a swamp of their own “issues” as we would say nowadays.

A valid critique, I still think, but in the end we lost the argument.  Lots of reasons why, but our own sectarianism was a big contributing factor.  Looking back, the “swampies” were the precursors of an approach to life that is quite widespread now.  Look at all those “fix-yourself” programmes on TV. Look at all the “culture and values” organisation therapy being sold to public and private sector alike.  Look at single-issue politics.  Look at the widespread individualisation of structural problems.

Anyway.  It’s an early piece of my work.  Collage.  A kind of surrealist pop-art aesthetic.  And a kind of everyday satire, targeting the behaviour of people around me.  And I’m still doing it.

Here’s another one of mine from inside SFSR8.  It’s a Brassai photograph with a speech bubble. Essentially I’m filling in some leftover space at the end of an article.  The article was a rather bad-tempered attempted critique of feminism.  The author was going through a messy divorce at the time, and it showed.  I guess what I was trying to do here was to lighten the mood a bit while reminding people about how predatory some purportedly leftist men could be. It was a condensed version of a three-frame cartoon I had drawn but not published.  It was an idea for a series called “The Marchers: an everyday story of leftist folk.”  Never went any further and the original appears lost.  Pity.  Anyway, people liked this one.  I got a number of appreciative comments at the time.

Finally, another space-filler.  This time I’ve cut together a longish quote from Raoul Vaneigem’s Revolution of Everyday Life with some illustrations from a William book. William Carries On, I seem to remember.  Looking at it now, it reads like a personal manifesto.  In its own little way, it kind of explains so much of what I’ve done since, this stuff included.  It’s a little bit of advice on keeping your sanity in the face of the routine defeats of life. "Throw in ... your wit, your tranquility..", yep, that's me.  And it says if maybe you can get just one person to see what you mean, then that’s OK.

Monday, 22 March 2010

A first foray into marketing

This is the flyer Rob is taking to the Web Comix Thing at the weekend.

As much as I'd have liked to use colour, the marketing budget just wouldn't run to it.  Anyway, our team of analysts is poised, waiting to see how much Bang you get for £12.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

How it all began. Part 6

November 2008 and I’d got an episode done.  So I sent it round to everybody in my department.  Resounding silence.  But then one of the youngest people in the place came over and said how much she liked it, and was so uncool in her enthusiasm, I just had to carry on.  Even if she was the only one who read it. (You know who you are)

So I got down to episode two.  After Christmas I sent a message around asking if anybody wanted to get these things regularly and about a dozen or so people said “yes”.  That was all I needed.  I set myself the target of getting one episode out more-or-less each month.  It seemed to be long enough to allow me time to get the episode together, but short enough to keep the story fresh in people’s minds.

The first five episodes turned out to be 18 or 20 frames long, by luck, really. But episode 6 was about 30 frames, which just seemed too daunting. So I rewrote episodes 6 and 7 into three 20-frame episodes. I added in the bit where Faren meets the Guy from Performance Improvement again.  This was based on a real meeting I’d had with somebody I had been working with at about this time.  It was still quite “raw” for me, so I didn’t know if it’d work.  But I thought it was worth the risk.

Anyhow, this set the pattern of using a standard 20-frame format for each episode.  It’s about as much as I can reasonably do in spare moments over a month, and it’s long enough to push the story along some.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Up Close And Personalised Episode 7

Making reasonable time this month. My friend and colleague Rob of Strange Biros has offered to take some flyers to the Web Comix Thing at the end of the month. So I gotta get down to that.  Thinking along the lines of a movie poster: POLICY-POLICE: Bureaucrats. With guns.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Analogically remastered version of Reaching the LEARNER

I've gone through the whole of the first story and tidied it up to give it a more consistent look.  It's now all in a single file so you can read the whole thing in one go.

I thought I'd try it out on scribd as a kind of experiment, and to spread the love around as it were.

So link is here.

Hope it works, I've been having a bit of trouble myself this morning, but may have something to do with my generally not-so-good connection.  Anyhow lets see how it goes.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Up Close And Personalised Episode 6

These things can evolve right up until I press the red button. The "tamborine" quip came out as I was putting the frame together. Just seemed more natural than what I'd put there originally. Also seemed to fit with the "preacher man" look of our chap. Also he looked so humourless. It's like he's right and SO much of the world is wrong. So it just ain't funny. Is it?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

How it all began. Part 5

Around Christmas 2007 I showed the script to my wife.  She thought it was weird, but liked some of the jokes.  The kind of impact I was after, I guess.  The challenge now was to get the thing drawn.

I was still thinking about producing a “real”, physical comic.  On paper.  So I tried pencils and inks.  Very traditional.  Very slow.  Even if you’re aiming at something quite rough and ready, it just eats your time.  But I ended up with a few rough pencil drawings of the main characters, so I’d got a good idea of what I wanted them to look like.

I then had a go at some computer drawing packages, and a digitising tablet.  Again slow.  If I was going to do this, I felt it needed the momentum of regular episodes, and it needed to fit round a full time job and a life.

I picked up one of Frank Miller’s Sin City books in my local library.  I thought all the black kind of absolves you of adding a lot of detail.  And it would fit with that Hammett/Chandler feel to some of my dialogue.  So, with my head full of old black-and-white movies, I started messing around with photographic images in Paint.

Paint is not the most user-friendly of packages, but it’s like having a go at fixing your house with a hammer, a saw and a big screwdriver.  You can get results.  Quick.

And presentation software.  You know what I mean.  It’s everywhere.  With easy page turning.

Autumn 2008 and I was on a roll.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

How it all began. Part 4

I began scribbling down snippets of dialogue.  These were imagined discussions around a couple of particular “crimes” that had happened in the Organisation.  I was trying to push them further, but being just “a step away” as Oshii I think said.

At this stage I was just using letters to represent the individual characters – X, Y, and Z.  These three eventually became Faren, the Director of Compliance and Zee (sign of laziness in naming there).  But they had no flesh on their bones, other than X/Faren being a kind of imagined “me”.  The dialogue had that wise-cracking, film-noir feel to it even then. I guess it’s the kind of thing we all wish we could do, rather than stand, tongue-tied and mute in the face of the day-to-day nonsense we all face at work.

It still wasn’t forming into anything, though.   So I trawled the web in search of inspiration and advice.  Which I found in the multi-talented Alex di Campi.  Alex described using “story boards” in writing her comic books.  She is also a film/video maker, so this makes sense – and it certainly chimed with me.  I began using a two-column table.  In the first column I put a description of the scene, in the second I put the dialogue.  Suddenly all became clear, and I could “see” where I was going.

The story then took on a momentum of its own, and I’d pretty much got the whole thing into tabular form within a couple of months.  I was scribbling bits of dialogue into notebooks, and then stitching them together into longer pieces in the tables.

So, sometime around the end of 2007 I’d got a story called “Reaching the LEARNER” told in 7 tables.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Up Close And Personalised Episode 5

A little while back I was watching the anime TV series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig).  I realised that if you're telling a story over a long run, you have space for the occasional fugue.  You can take some time out to explore character, or some aspect of your world.

So, in this episode we get to see a bit of the Kid's history.  As much as she'll allow anyway.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

How it all began. Part 3

So. I’d gotten the beginnings of an idea to do something cartoonish or comic-bookish, and I’d got a world that I wanted to represent. What I guess was needed was a catalyst.

Late in 2006 I applied for a more senior job within the Organisation. During the interview, the HR bod said something like, “If you get this job, you will have to be more corporate. Could you give me examples…” My brain exploded. And I answered, “Well, I’ve got a suit…” Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

It’s a bit like the moment in the war film when the Kommandant of the POW camp says, “For you, ze varr iss over.” You realise that from now on the rules of the game have changed, but that you don’t have to play by them. It’s strangely liberating.

At about this time my wife was working on a (proper) book and asked me if I’d do some drawings for it. At the end of the day, all I ended up doing was an acorn and an oak tree, but that’s another story. As part of my scribbling I drew various versions of a demented-looking kid tapping at a laptop.

Again about the same time some buffoon from the Defence Ministry or somewhere lost a laptop full of sensitive information (like they do from time-to-time). And I thought that somebody like the kid I’d drawn would probably have nicked it and deleted all the government secrets while looking for porno.

This was how the first story (Reaching the LEARNER) began to form in my mind…

Monday, 4 January 2010

How it all began. Part 2

Back in the day, the Organisation used to do stuff. A lot of it was small-scale, but it made a real difference to the people involved.

But then the Organisation got poisoned by Policy. The only change that mattered was large-scale, national-level, “step” change. And we cuddled up to Power and imagined we were on the inside of this exclusive club.

Our role was reinterpreted as influencing “policy makers” and devising strategies for others to implement.

But the truth is that the central government officials that the Organisation deals with do not really make policy. Politicians do. And they are driven by a brute public opinion interpreted by the press and other commentators. The best officials can do is offer a readymade solution that vaguely fits the vaguely-worded policy pronouncement from on high.

So we spend our time creating solutions in search of a problem. This makes the Organisation an ecosystem where bureaucrats, technocrats and power-players can thrive, because there is no clear object to our work, and anything at all could turn out to be our saviour.

This is my world. A world not that far from comic-book, really.