An everyday story of leftwing folk

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Merry Christmas from the Policy Police

Inspired by the "Nana" card given away in Cookie magazine last year. A select band of 25 people have been sent a "real" card with this design. So this is for those of you who weren't on my lucky list. Merry Christmas everybody.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Manga Jiman shortlist

Was announced yesterday. Which I didn't make of course. But I'll definitely enter again next year. The challenge pushed me to do something that I think is better than anything I'd done previously. The next thing is to work out what to do with it. Anyway, here are the shortlisted entries: Anya Zhuravskaya – ‘Storyteller Sisters’ Ami Clark – ‘The Flower That Held Its Breath’ Byron Reynolds – ‘Crash Course’ Dean McKnight & Jade Sarson – ‘Shear Brilliance’ Elena Vitagliano – ‘The Deep Needs Train’ Gillian Ha – ‘To The Girl With The Butterfly Ears’ Lorenzo Fruzza - ‘Heart's Orbit’ Megan Wheeler – ‘A Harvest Love’ Rebecca Burgess – ‘Letters From England’ Sarah Burgess – ‘The Man and his Shadow’ Vivian Truong – ‘Moving On’ Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Feb/March and posted on Japanese Embassy website. I shall look forward to it.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #11, the epilogue

Last one before Christmas and last of the present series.

Still working on what happens come January. Looking at what I've got planned, chill winds continue to blow, and ever more complications get added.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

More ingredient-free products

A couple of things have reminded me of the version of Going Green shown here.

Firstly, following having my head sprayed with the stuff, we had to buy some more fly-killer. Cuz of cheapness we went with a supermarket own-brand spray this time. Yesterday I tried it for the first time on a couple of those flies that wake up when you switch on the heating. Didn't work. Gave them a wee blast - enough to get them spinning on their backs with the old (admittedly branded) spray. They just carried on bumbling around as if nothing happened. Then at bed time I discovered a queen wasp in the folds of our bedroom curtain. I blasted the hell out of it with the stuff. It did die, but I think cause of death was probably drowning.

The second thing is moths. Went for a job interview last month, but when I got out my second-best suit, it was full of holes. (Cue Momoko moment from Kamikaze Girls. If you haven't seen this film, get a copy, watch it.) And now it seems you can't get proper moth balls like when I was a kid. No wonder we're plagued with the things.

No doubt we'll live longer, but we'll be grubby, sweaty people dressed in nylon and soaked in perfume cuz we smell so bad. But it won't be very good perfume cuz that'll be banned for being carcinogenic, or bad for the environment.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #10

As usual, things begin to fall apart before any satisfactory conclusion can be reached.

The "Buster" part of all this, as they say, is based on a true story. There are times when everything goes pear-shaped and victory falls into the lap of somebody who was being sidelined by the original plan. I never did find out if it was Machiavellian scheming that won the day, or just an inability to see the plan through. Bit of both, probably.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The changing face of Faren Gosman

I thought I'd look back over the 3-year history of Policy Police and see how the style has changed and (we hope) my skill has improved.

Here's Faren from the first episodes. Rendered using Paint. Paint is pretty low-resolution and unforgiving of mistakes, but there was something in its crudeness that gave me the space to move on with the story. I felt I needed to get the episodes out monthly to maintain momentum both for myself drawing it and to keep the readers interested in reading it.

The second picture dates from around the 9-month mark.  I had decided to revisit the main characters and tidy them up a bit. I had gotten much more used to Paint by this stage, and the differences between the older and more recent characters was showing a bit. I then went back and "remastered" the whole 8-episode story, "Reaching the LEARNER" to give it an overall consistency.

As the second anniversary of Policy Police approached, I decided to ditch Paint and move over to Manga Studio Debut. It was a bit of a quick changeover, so what I did here was redraw the Paint version within MSD. As ou can see, the main difference is sharpness.

So now it's almost a year later and I've got much more into the flow of using Manga Studio. So, like I did with Paint, I'm looking back at earlier drawings and de-doing them to get greater consistency. This last pic is a sneak preview of a new-look Faren that'll debut in the new year. I decided to go back to my original sketches and source material and start again from scratch. I may well do some more tweaking and stuff between now and then, but he seems to be shaping up.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Manga Jiman done

In the post this afternoon. I can stop thinking about it now. My son asked me, "What's the story? What happens next?" Short answer is I dunno. I still haven't worked out properly how we get from where the Policy Police are now to the new place I've started up. Well, I know the big things. It's the pictures and words I don't know.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Policy Police: return of the repossessed #9

Phew. Here at last. It's been put on the back burner while I progress my entry for the Manga Jiman competition. By chance, this episode lent itself to much reuse. I think the pigeons are the only wholly new bit. I hope it works...

The Manga Jiman entry is almost there. A tweak here and there, the odd continuity error to fix and I'll be there in time for the November 1st deadline. Still need to do some hard thinking about where Policy Police goes next year. I've got a vague idea of themes and direction, but nothing concrete yet. I've also been thinking about a whole other comic, entirely different subject matter in a 4-koma (4-panel) style. But how that will fit into my life I really don't know.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Progress of sorts

I've got 7 of 8 pages pretty much done for the Manga Jiman competition. I'm pretty pleased with the results - in fact I'm so pleased that I may well go back on my original promise to let it sink without trace if I don't make the cut. It's opened up a future for these comics that I'm quite looking forward to pursuing. So I guess I will, anyway.

A more immediate future is what happens after Christmas, when the current tale comes to an end. It's all a bit vague at the moment, but I did have one stroke of luck...

I was in the dentist waiting room a couple of days ago and there was this 15/16 year-old girl there who said some things that amused me so much I had to write them down. Since then she's grown into a fully-fledged Policy Police character in my head. She's certainly helped - caused me to think up some new snippets of dialogue, and she seems to be the sort of character I need to make things happen in the story. Anyway. I'm very grateful for the help.

A second immediate challenge is the next episode... All I can say is look out for plenty of reuse in this one.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Manga Jiman update

I said way back that I was going to enter this competition. Now it's the last day of September and I've got 3 pages of 8 done. So it's not hopeless. A bit less than a week per page. But it'll probably mean another late Policy Police this month. I'm quite pleased with how it's going, though. I also have been thinking about where Policy Police will go after Christmas. Beginning to get ideas to fill what is an enormous void right now.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #8

I said I'd be late. But here it is, hope it was worth it. I'm feeling a bit too close to it to make any judgement.
It's entirely an accident that security technology appears in this one. Though appropriate given this month's anniversary of 9/11. We all continue to pay through sacrificing our dignity and "giving the guys hours of fun". One bit I'm not sure works, is where the pretty young thinktanker dares to interrupt Artemisia. I wanted to make the thinktanker's crime pretty innocuous - I've seen this happen several times in my working life - so when the red mist descends and all the toys are thrown out of the pram, it's really quite unexpected. But very entertaining for the onlookers.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

1000 views of Not Protectively Marked

Yay! 1000 views on Slideshare of this old stager. For whatever reason this has been my most popular episode by far. I noticed the other day that I was something like #3 on Google for "Not Protectively Marked"... well, as I implied at the time, Information Security is dull, and anything that can lighten it a bit is bound to be welcome. I redrew it for print recently and it appears in Rapid Response. It became evident as I was putting the book together that although it was an early story from me, it was much later in the timeline of Policy Police. Zee had to have been back and introduced to the Kid to make sense. So in PP time it takes place after the current story...

Thursday, 1 September 2011

I'm going to be late this month, I know it

I'm just so behind right now. I've hardly done anything for the next episode - 2 frames so far. Mainly because of my comletely unrelated summer project. THIS Pretty much all of August was taken up with this beast and there's still lots to do. Working on the interior right now - cupboards and stuff in advance of its second outing weekend of the 9/10th.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #7

Here's the latest episode. I've been away on holiday, so hopefully can be forgiven drifting into the 2nd week of the month with this one.
There's a commonplace idea that the public sector is a good and moral thing, whereas private sector involvement brings competition which is a bad or immoral thing.

In fact, there's plenty of competition within the public sector. Competition between departments or agencies for resources or reputation. Competition among individuals for position. All the competition that you'd find in the private sector is there, except competition to provide a better service at a better price. Keeping the "bad" competition while excluding the "good".

This is an an underlying theme in Policy Police generally, and surfaces in this episode as Zee's schadenfreude and Angelus' willingness to sell a "colleague" for a better pension.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Manga Jiman Comptetition 2011

The Japanese Embassy in London have published details of this year's Manga Jiman Competition. They offer big prizes and attract high-calibre entries. I stumbled across last year's late in the day, so there was not time to enter and anyway I just wasn't ready for this challenge. But this year I'm going to tie on my Hachimaki and ink in one eye of my Daruma and go for this one.

This year's theme is "New Beginnings" which has stirred up some thoughts that have been going round my head of late. I think I've mentioned before that I know in my head how Policy Police will end, though I don't know when. Having that in my head, I've left myself with the niggly thought, "what happens next". So this seems to be an ideal opportunity to take a bold step forward and try to answer that question with a pilot for the sequel.

It also offers me an objective test  for whether it's worth pursuing this idea. If I win a prize, I have a direction for the future. If I don't, then the idea can sink without trace and I go back to the drawing board.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #6

I'm a few days late this month. There are a couple of reasons for this which I'll tell you about below.

First reason is that my wife submitted her PhD thesis at the end of June. A PhD thesis is a kind of black hole that sucks in all the available time from several parallel universes. So in general I've been “time-poor” as they say.

Second reason is that I had this idea to try something a bit experimental (for me). So in the middle bit of this one you get a bit of Brechtian alienation or something. In fact it's me under the influence of Japanese comics where characters often get more cartoonish when they're under the sway of some heightened emotion. Anyway, I nearly bottled out a couple of times, but now I'm glad I did it that way.

Three reasons. I wrote the above this morning before my battery gave out. Last night some bonehead(s) stole the copper connectors off the overhead power cables to our house. Who would have thought that scrap metal was worth risking your life for... Anyway, I've had no power or connectivity all day. So that has delayed me some more.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Great slapstick moments

I don't know if I'm any more accident-prone than the next person. My wife thinks I am. I am a man who has managed to step on a rake so that it cracks me on the head. I've also really slipped on a banana skin. I'm the only person I know who has done that. The funniest bit about that last one was that as I lay there on my back in the pouring rain, I was convinced it was dog muck. And I was now lying in it.

Anyway. Yesterday I managed to stick a spade through a wasps nest in the garden. Two of them had stung me on the wrist before I knew anything, and I was instantly surrounded by a swarm. I fled to the house and sprayed my wrist with Waspeze. I then became aware of buzzing coming from behind my ear and I could feel something in my hair at the back of my neck. "I can't see anything", says my wife from a safe distance. By now I was whimpering like a dog that knows its going to be beaten. So my wife sprayed my head with fly killer. "It's going to be so pleased with that," I thought, and asked for a comb. My wife was still sceptical until we managed to comb out the dying beast. I had a headache for the rest of the day. Courtesy of the fly spray, I guess.

I think this episode tells me I need a haircut. Though if I had short hair yesterday, the little bugger will have stung me on the head and got away with it.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Making Pages

Having been converting some of these stories for the page in parallel with producing the latest on-screen episodes, I've been quite struck by the differences. Pages proper have a quite different rhythm.

Each collection of frames on a page have to add up to a kind of whole together. You have to think about whether the page "ends" or whether it sets up the next page, and how the two halves of a double page spread work together. There's also the rhythm that's set up by the number and size of frames on each page. Maybe a bit like notes in a bar in music - is the page made up of a lot of crotchets, or a single breve?

The slideshow versions on the other hand are maybe closer to anime. You can occasionally fake up a frame to seem narrower, or skewed in some way, but you're essentially stuck with the regular landscape format. The rhythm is also much more staccato, and it's much harder to alter the pace. Having more words per page is probably the most sure-fire way of slowing the reader down, I think. Or maybe having an image that's quite hard to read. Though I've not really tried that sort of thing much. Probably the Zee-without-her-glasses-on scene in the epilogue to Reaching the LEARNER is the closest I've got. The repeated frames in the epilogue to Up close.. was another attempt. Making the reader work harder to move on.

Anyway, that's about the sum of these reflections so far...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #5

The new one hits the streets at last!

It's been a bit of a mad dash this month cuz I dedicated time to getting the book sorted. Also this was an episode I found very hard to get started on. But once I got beyond the first frame I really enjoyed doing it. Then I deleted the first frame by mistake and had to redo it. Humph.

The second half of this episode is inspired by the boiling pit of irrationality that has been aroused by the current administration. Bit nostalgic, really. Very 1970s. For some people its a heady cocktail of the personal, the political, the painful and all manner of other things beginning with P. All bundled up together.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

New Policy Police book hits the streets

Policy Police: Rapid Response is a collection of all the short stories that have been published up until now.  It's available in 2 formats:

Pocket edition - 5"x8" - the same size as the others I've done to date
Trade edition: - 6"x9" - that bit bigger for the more ostentatious or short-sighted reader.

The proof copies came this morning - managed to elicit some guffaws from my wife, which is all the market testing I need. Click on the little icon in the right-hand column or this link here.  Or in the SHOP once I've updated it.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Excavating the old Policy Police stories

Or at least it's felt a bit like that. Some of the stories I've redrawn for the upcoming book are approaching two years old. It's made me very aware of how different the stories look these days. The early ones were pretty rough, but that didn't matter, really. I was just pushing ahead with the story and showing myself that I could put words and pictures together in a way that other people could respond to.

I pretty much took Paint as far as any sensible person could, and Manga Studio has definitely moved me up several layers by comparison. And there's so much in it that I haven't really tried yet. I'm sure that in a year's time I'll be looking back at the stuff I'm doing now and realising all the other stuff I could have done....

I'm really tempted to go back to the original story (for the third, maybe fourth time depending how you count) and re-draw it, to make it look as good as I think the new one does. But perhaps that way lies madness. Probably better to try and think of new stories. Less boring for the readers I think.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Policy Police: The next book

I'm over half way through remastering the short stand-alone stories for print. I've set myself the target of getting the next book out in June. So I reckon I'm on course to do that.

As a taster, here's the very short story "Going Green" done as a one-pager. You can click on it to make it bigger.

I did the original overnight following a meeting about our department's lack of green-ness. I added the cleaning product at the end to make explicit something that was only implied in the original, and to give the thing the feel of an advertisement feature.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #4

Episode 4 already. No Faren at all in this one, though it has happened before. Once I think.

Up until this story, most episodes have been introduced with a sentence or two in Faren's voice, giving some context to what was to follow. However, cuz there are parts of the current story (like this episode) that Faren is not privy to, I did consider having some introductions in the Kid's voice. In the end, I followed Wittgenstein and decided that "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

While I was in Tokyo just recently I did a lot more traveling in lifts than I am used to. Our apartment was on the 12th floor, and a lot of shops are multi-level affairs. Anyway, the experience inspired me to set the second part of this episode in a lift. I had originally scripted the encounter to take place in a corridor, but I felt the claustrophobic environment of the lift would add to Tex's discomfort. Also it gives his little speech in Frame 19 the feel of an "elevator pitch" - that this was something he'd rehearsed for moments such as this. Though it doesn't really have the desired effect.

Talking of desired effect, the lift pictures haven't come out very well, but I've decided to go ahead and publish anyway. Might redo them over the next couple of days.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Japan.... Tokyo

Got back from there a couple of days ago and I've just about got over the jet lag. Wasn't a particularly comics-oriented stay, though you can't really ride the subway and miss them. People reading big, fat magazines chock-full of manga.

But all this means I've got to get my Policy Police head back on and crack on with the next episode.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #3

Here's episode 3. Coincides with my own departure from the machine and onto the "mean streets".

One thing I'm getting at in this episode, is a kind of "two cultures" thing - the bureaucrat on one side and the entrepreneur on the other. Just don't get each other.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Policy Police chronology

In between working on the new online episodes, I'm working through the older stand-alone episodes, remastering them in Manga Studio for print. It's a bit of a slog, but well worth the effort.

A whole bunch of things have occurred to me as I've been doing this. Unfortunately a lot of it is pretty pretentious. So it needs some more thinking about before I inflict it on the world.

However, here's something concrete that's come out of my thinking. I want to organise the stories in the next book in chronological order, according to Policy Police time.

Some episodes presume knowledge and events from others, other episodes contain clues as to the season, for example. Well, having thought about it, it seems to me that everything in the Policy Police world (at least as far as the stuff I've got planned until December 2011, our time) takes place within the space of one year.

So, here it is. Makes sense to me, anyway.

March – April 2025: Reaching the LEARNER
April 2025: Cutting a dash (the original)
April – May 2025: Up close and personalised
May 2025: Election special
May 2025: Going green
June 2025: Big Breakfast
July 2025: Surplus to requirements
September – October 2025: Return of the repossessed
January 2026: Pretty Vacant
February 2026: Cutting a Dash 2
March 2026: Anniversary Waltz

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Nana and the tsunami

We're booked to go to Japan at Easter. So, as you can imagine, I'm following events there with great interest. If the Foreign Office changes its advice, we certainly intend to go.

I know it's a bit off of me, but there's a place in the back of my mind where I've been worrying about the fate of the characters in the manga 'Nana'.

Nana Osaki and most of the members of the two bands Blast and Trapnest hail from a coastal town in the northern part of Japan. Or at least a part where it regularly snows in March. So I feel it was certainly hit by this month's tsunami.

Nana will have just celebrated her 30th birthday and it's 10 years since she left for Tokyo to pursue her singing career. So there's a kind of excuse for them to be in their hometown about now.

I'm sure Ai Yazawa has thought of this as she recovers from her illness. That there is now an option where all the main characters are wiped out in a single catastrophe. I've got a catastrophic ending to Policy Police that I know I can fall back on if all else fails. A kind of nuclear option. But, as our leaders used to say in the cold war, the point of such an option is not using it.

The tsunami also offers other options. It is also a story of survival. That "life is about getting knocked down over and over, but still getting up each time," as Nana once said to Hachi. Losing things that were "always there" can focus our minds on them even more sharply. If Ren's warehouse apartment is destroyed, will it help Nana finally get over his death? If the Terashima Hotel is washed away, will it force Nobu to make an active decision about the family business? These events may even offer an opportunity for Takumi to redeem his past bad behaviour.

Just goes to show that despite the extended hiatus in the Nana story, and the vast amount of writing and drawing that would fill the gap until the present day, these comic-book characters live for me in a kind of parallel-universe Japan.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #2

At last the second episode:
My computer died within days of me surrendering my work machine, but thanks to ebay I'm back up and running again. Was away all last week, too, so it was all a bit touch and go this month.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Policy Police Cards

I've fancied doing this for a little while now, and had thought about it a little recently. Then last weekend my son was at a chess tournament, so I designed these while I was waiting in the "Parent Pen". It was in a primary school, with little chairs. So you can understand how I suffer for my art.

The reverse says "Call the POLICY POLICE" along with the url for this site. I got them produced by - and I had them within the week. Maybe I should start leaving them in phone boxes... do people still use those?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Policy Police: Return of the repossessed #1

At last the next longer story begins.

I suppose I've been thinking about this story for about a year now. It's changed direction several times in the face of a real world that has been in a state of flux. I've even changed the name over that time, but I've settled now on name#3.

There are 11 episodes scripted, so it should come to an end in December 2011.

As you can guess, the challenge was to come up with something that had the legs for the long haul in our turbulent world. I think it's up to the task. See what you think.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Where things are with Policy Police right now

I was talking to a friend the other night and mentioned that I'd got episodes scripted until December this year. It sounded a bit mad just saying it, so I dug them out and read them. To my relief I quite like them. They will be tweaked some as each episode gets drawn, but I'm happy with the overall direction of the story.

Which is good, because I'm thinking a lot about the drawing stage right now. I'm still working on drawing the first episode of the upcoming story, but it's nearly there. I've been learning about working with panels and pages in Manga Studio as I work towards the next Policy Police book... I've reworked one of the short stories into page format now, but I think the whole thing will take some time. As much because the 20-frame screen version has become a 29-panel, 6-page version for the book. 

Anyway. I'm guessing the first episode of new story will be posted within the week. Something to look forward to.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Bad Advice....

Instead of cracking on with the next episode, I've recently got distracted into a competition run by Mario Live whose little tutorials are teaching me how to use Manga Studio. So, to encourage him, and learn about using panels at the same time I did this little one-pager:

You can vote for me by hitting the Facebook like-button you'll find at that link.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

More historical artefacts

I've been riffling through some of my old stuff and I found this little collection of illustrations.

Richard Evans

Back in the late 80s and early 90s I worked at TSBs management college in Solihull. Our unit produced a couple of training programmes using 12" videodisks. I did these pictures to illustrate an article written by my then boss (Theresa Barnett) about how they were produced. It's available here if your organisation has access to Emerald.

Probably the most amusing thing for me is the old new technology in the pictures. These were the things that surrounded me in my office at the time - 5.25" floppy disks, the big TV/monitor, the VHS camcorders.

In fact I was so pleased to see these after all these years, that I've decided to re-draw the people so that I can use them in Policy Police. I'm sure Big Hair will be back by 2025. Maybe a fashion that's just going away again...

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Policy Police: Cutting a Dash 2: It's back!

First comic of 2011, and I've really enjoyed doing it. Getting to grips with Manga Studio and all. As I said in the previous post, this is a sequel to Cutting a Dash, from about 18 months ago.

I don't know what influenced me to revisit this one. I guess partly because I spent so many months with the consultants and senior managers building a dashboard. The pain lingers on.