ABC Warrior Steelhorn. Commission pencils.
Here’s a final selection of page layouts from the sixty-four that make up our first Kestrels story. I’m very happy with how it’s going, even though there have been quite a few pages that fought back pretty hard.
I had no end of trouble with this first page, where Ethan decides to run away from his care home and go back to his Nan’s.
I had all these ideas about showing him packing his bag, dropping it out of the window, him then climbing out of the window and (as it says in the script) abseiling down the wall on some knotted sheets.
This is the version of the page from my previous start on this book, incorporating the ideas listed above:
In this second version, I reckoned that Ethan deciding to make his move would be the only action that required a passage-of-time sequence of panels, and that the rest of the page would be key moments only – packing, escaping through the window, on the street, back at his Nan’s, and finishing with a new scene of him inside the flat. (The first and third tiers both feature a split panel, something I’m enjoying doing, yet only a few years ago I would have shuddered at the very idea.)
I’m very pleased with how this page is going, worth all the hoopla:
I nailed this next page more or less on the first attempt, as Ethan wanders from the fields to a lane and flags down a car. The only problem was deciding how to show the lane in the fourth panel – I’d originally got fixated on having Ethan in the foreground and faffed about for a while, but eventually remembered that the panel is about the road and not Ethan:
Here are the thumbnails for the first sixteen pages of our story:
A couple of commissions to draw, and then some proper Kestrels artwork!
This is from Lew Stringer’s site, a mine of information.
I have no memory whatsoever of this. It looks like I must have drawn it around the same time as the final episodes of the Cursed Earth serial – it definitely has the look of the page where Judge Jack gets his, what with them great big shiny noses.
I wonder what happened to the artwork?
And here they are, freshly purloined from Tim Keable’s ComicArtFans page.
A four-pager as part of DC Comics’ Big Book of Freaks, you had to do the logo yourself (never my strong suit), and the pay was hopeless. But there was Romans…
For several years, when I was very young, my birthday present would be the Lion Annual.
I was nine years old in 1962 when this annual was published, and looking at it today it is still packed with wonderful art and stories – Paddy Payne drawn by Joe Colquhoun, Captain Condor drawn by Brian Lewis, Karl the Viking drawn by Ruggero Giovannini, Tales of Tollgate School drawn by Selby Donnison, Red Pengelly’s Last Wreck drawn by Ron Embleton, plus several others by artists unknown to me, but all of them jolly good.
And then there’s this, on one of the endpapers.
And this, on the other endpaper.
But, despite the young Michael’s vandalism, still one of his most treasured possessions.
In all my years of drawing I’ve never had to use properly defined locations until now. Our serial is initially set in the English county of Cornwall, and our main characters live in a clifftop house overlooking a fishing village.
I’ve had a go at figuring out what the house looks like, and what the floor plan might be, but I decided that there’s no point going into too much detail at this point, it might be best to wait until I actually start drawing the characters in and around the house.
But it’s a good starting point:
The first appearance of the house is as a full page picture, with Katie and Ethan walking up the hill towards it.
I decided that the viewpoint would be below the house to emphasise how high up it is, but it quickly became apparent that this could lead to a problem whereby the house, bearing in mind that this is the first time we see it, would be relatively small and we might not see very much detail. This didn’t bother me unduly, as I could show it in more detail on the following page.
Here are my initial doodlings for this page:
I then made a start on laying out the next page. This is the page where we first meet Edith, Katie’s mother.
Edith is a major character, and so I would really like to get a good look at her on this page. But I also want to have a large panel of the house. This could be a real problem, because now I am trying to focus on two things at once, which can easily end in tears.
So my initial doodle has a large first panel, showing the house and other stuff (as yet undecided, but definitely a chicken coop), and an attempt to have a good view of Edith in panel three, her first appearance. But it’s not going to work – there are a couple of tall narrow panels, and unless a tall and narrow panel is actually showing something tall and narrow, then it must be cast out, for it is breaking one of my many arbitrary rules. And even worse, they are on the middle tier! Notwithstanding this, I had another couple of attempts to see if I could make it work, but the tall panels are in now my brain.
Despite these problems, I was very happy with the bottom tier of three panels on the first attempt, showing Edith reading a letter, especially as the third panel could be a nice Edith close up.
First three goes at this page:
I then thought that perhaps I could still have a large first panel showing the house if the letter-reading sequence could be beefed up to be the money shot of Edith, but then this would leave a middle tier of four small panels for Edith’s debut, which wouldn’t do at all.
So I bit the bullet and resigned myself to having a small pic of the house on this page.
Disappointed, but not surprised, I had a couple of further attempts at laying out the page:
And, having ‘endeavoured to persevere’, I got to a point where there were a couple of good shots of Edith in a layout that wouldn’t give me a sleepless night:
Final design (although I’ll probably change panel one to a whole house pic):
So it was back to the previous page to see if I could have a bigger house.
This house is too big, looks like it’s on an embankment rather than a cliff:
But this one is okay (I can tell myself it’s okay because I have a vague notion that I can have a proper crack at the house later on in the story).
This could have been fun – a monstrous robot insect built from speaker arrays, bass boxes etc. Sadly, this was as far as it went.
The fact that the Sláine character and his milieu coincided with my lifelong passion for all things Celtic was a major factor in my asking Pat Mills if I could be the artist on his new serial. Happily, for me, he agreed.
At that stage of my career it seemed important that the subject matter of whatever I happened to be drawing should ‘suit me’, thus my lobbying for the job. Although nowadays I can find fulfillment in almost anything, having gradually realised that it can be very satisfying to be stretched by material that has no immediate appeal, I know that I’d have been delighted to work on Sláine whenever the opportunity came along.
Here are my four favourite pages from my original tenure on the strip. All are from the Skyships serial, one of the best action stories I have worked on. There are other Sláine pages that have panels or layouts that I still like, and there are bits on these pages that could have been better, but overall I’m still pretty thrilled with them.
They are among the handful out of all my pages that have survived the ‘Micky complete page longevity test’.
I’ve done these sketches just to keep my hand in whilst I’m working on the page layouts.
I’m still not sure what the book is going to look like, but there’s a couple of bits of inking here that feel like they may be the way forward.
Living where we do and working at home as I do, and not having access to a car, I have a lot of trouble buying cards for my wife at Christmas and on her birthday.
So I now make my own. Which she seems to like.