Thursday, 28 November 2013

REVIEW: Freelancer by Martin Kirby

At this past weekends Thought Bubble Convention (See my previous blog) I was able to pick up a couple of small press titles. Not as many as I would have liked, but that's what happens in the real world when you have no money, unfortunately!
"Freelancer" was one of the ones I was lucky enough to pick up. I say lucky because, I had gotten through most of the convention, it was after 16:00 on the Sunday and I thought I was done with buying things for the weekend. Prior to the con, I had made a list of all the small press titles I wanted to check out while I was at the con. Then, mere days before the con, I lost it. This comic was on that list simply because, utterly by chance, I had stumbled across Martins tumblr. I instantly fell in love with his style and adored his "Last of Us" drawing.
So it's late on the Sunday and I had completely forgotten about checking out Martins stall. Simply put, there was just too much going on at the con for anyone to successfully get everything they wanted without a prewritten list.
with about half hour of the con left to go for the year, my printer Stu of UKcomics fame, came up to my table and I asked to see his haul. Amidst the haul was "Freelancer" and I instantly knew it was one title I needed to pick up. Particularly after Stu let me have a flick through it. He told me exactly where to find Martin's table. I was at the Lou Scannon table on my own though so had to wait for Jim or Kris to come relieve me of my duties.
Jim and his sister soon arrived at the table so I double timed it over to the Royal Armouries hall, where Stu had told me I could get the comic.
Suffice to say, I got the comic and had a pleasant, short chat with Martin and it was pretty much literally before the con finished. I picked up a copy of his "Last of Us" print too. How could I not? It's epic. Just need a frame now...

I didn't get to read the comic until Tuesday, on a sick day from work (post-con lurgy strikes again).
I started reading it and really dug the art style. I did think it started a bit... Insanely? Sort of full on and over the top crazy but that's part of the genius of it- it's a dream sequence of sorts. Then when it gets to the stories "real world" it's grittier and somewhat more akin to the sort of thing folk expect from Whedons "Firefly".
It's a light and fun read. The comedy elements work well and the action scenes are nice.

A lot of the "aliens" in the comic are anthropomorphic versions of rather familiar animals  (I'm assuming they're aliens at the moment as opposed to being the next stage of Earths animal evolution but that could all be opened up more in later issues.). This works pretty well for me as I'm a big fan of the game "Beyond Good and Evil" and this reminded me a lot of that. Never a bad thing in my opinion. The character designs are nice and there's a good healthy mix of all the sci-fi things we've come to love and expect from the genre.
Sorry... My photography skills seem to have failed me here...
The main character is a girl called Elena. She sorta reminds me of a healthy mix of Tank Girl and Luke Skywalker. Tough, fun loving but wants more from life. She's a crewmember, not the Captain, on a ship of barely-getting-by folk who seem to participate in some... Not exactly legal activities. In this issue in particular, it's about the crew picking up an artifact from some less than savoury gangster types. As is the way in the world of comic books and cinema, things don't exactly go to plan. Elena has, what i'm assuming is the set up for her own personal sidekick, a robot buddy called Veetu and the pair end up in the middle of something they were specifically told to stay out of.

I'm not much of a reviewer, I know. I find it hard to not go in to detail because in doing so, I would be giving away major plot points. I thoroughly enjoyed this comic though. All the way through. One major difference between this comic and my own, is this comic is considerably more family friendly. It has violent bits, sure, but I would liken them to the violence in the animated film "Titan A.E" (Which despite a panning from the critics, I thoroughly enjoyed) and so therefore, is more accessible to all ages.
Great story, great art and I'm intrigued to see where Elena, Veetu and the crew go from here on. A nice first issue to break you in to the universe. You pick up bits of how the universe works but I'm looking forward to when that's explored in detail.
It's great to see more Sci-fi titles making their way out there now too and this comic is reminiscient of classic sci-fi in all the right ways.
I'd give this a big 8/10 as first issues go!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Thought Bubble 2013

The weekend just past saw this years annual Thought Bubble Sequential Art Festival (Posh way of saying "Comic Con") and for the third year running, Team Scannon was in attendance.
Jim and I headed up to Leeds early afternoon on the Friday (Kris followed in his own car later that day after he finished work) to make sure we had time to chill in our hotels before the start of the convention on the Saturday. Unfortunately, things didn't exactly go to plan, as there were severe roadworks on the M6 and we got stuck in traffic for so long, that we ended up hitting the rush hour traffic too. Eugh.
By the time we reached Leeds and checked in to our hotels, the last thing we wanted to do was just sit around more... (I was originally supposed to be sharing a bed with Jimbo, but thanks to my very generous friend @Sweena not being able to make the con, I was able to have her room. She's a star.).
We met up with Jim's sister, Katie, who just so happens to live in Leeds. She showed us car parking facilities and took us to the most amazing place to eat- Trinity Kitchen. Seriously, this place was awesome. They seemed to do every kind of food and I had some of the best pulled pork I have ever eaten.
I'd received a phonecall just before we got to Trinity Kitchen off Steve "Moon" Penfold who told us about a pre-con party going on in a nearby bar. So after food, we hooked up with him there for a bit. Jim and Katie took off earlier to get to sleep. Jim had driven for near on 6 hours and was wiped out. Penners and I stayed longer, debating the pros and cons of the superhero comic. Chatting about the best stories of recent years AND some of the worst until we both left to go to our own hotels.

Saturday morning came (As it does) and Jim and I got to the Allied London Hall by Royal Armouries shortly before Kris did and we set everything up. I thought the hall had promise but I was sceptical as it was around the corner from the other two halls that made up the rest of the convention AND it wasnt particularly well signposted. The hall was very cold, looked unfinished and in the early morning, looked foggy due to plaster dust falling from the ceiling and just... hovering about. It's ok kids- it's nontoxic. Apparently.
Now we had had to book in this hall as, for the first time ever, tables for the original two halls at TB sold out within two hours. Insanity... But it seemed to me that a lot of folk didn't really seem to know that the hall was there. As you can imagine, this made for very slow sales. VERY slow sales.
I kinda expected it to be honest. Leeds is always our worst convention for sales, but we love going and have a real laugh there, so we like going. Though Kris wasn't feeling it. Already ill with the flu, poor sales just contributed to him being a (self confessed) grouch for the whole weekend.
Jim and I on the other hand, had a helluva time! We thought it was a lot of fun.
Luckily though, Jim and I had done a series of prints under the Pencil Pirates banner that we put out on sale and these seemed to sell REALLY well. It's something I have noticed with Thought Bubble in previous years- there are a lot of stalls that almost seem to revolve around craft as opposed to comics. Prints fit in to this really well and seem to sell pretty damn well too.
Pencil Pirates prints by Bampfield and Harris
These prints aren't only limited to the convention though. We have some stock left, so if you're interested, contact me! £5 each, 2 for £8 or any 3 for £10.
One woman actually commented on how she loved the idea of the Pencil Pirates. She loved everything about it. The name, the logo. She thought it was a really clever idea. This was quite nice to hear.
Prior to the convention, I had been asked by G-man of the Comics Anonymous lot, to draw up a Lou Scannon Commission. I was more than happy to do so. He's enjoyed the comic and given us incredibly positive reviews. I ended up drawing what I think is one of the best pics of Lou I have ever done! I gave it to him on the Saturday at the convention. It was good to see him! I'm looking forward to seeing the photo his wife took of us all together! Should be funny!
Anyway, here's the pic I drew up for him!:

The Sunday was even slower than the Saturday. Which came as no surprise. Kris slumped further into his pit of despair. Which came as no surprise. Jim and I remained jovial. Which came as no... Wait... ok, It was a little surprising. Aren't I normally hungover at Thought Bubble? Ah, the joys of having given up drinking!
To pass the time, Jim and I did some sketching. Jim did a wonderful little drawing of BatFleck that is available for purchase if anyone is interested:

and while Jim was drawing up that bad boy, I started a piece in the style of some of my other prints. It's Daryl from Walking Dead. This is still available for purchase right now (Though I have had a few interested parties so it might not be available for long...) and can be yours for just £10 (plus £1.50 P&P)

With Sunday being even shitter on sales than the Saturday, it gave plenty of time to go wandering and taking in the other sights and delights that are small press. I'll write up a review blog for some of the titles I picked up over the weekend. I really lucked out and bought some incredible stuff.
There was only one thing that sullied my experience in small press that day. There's a small press title that I have followed from its first issue. I decided at the con to pick up the latest issue as I actually did really enjoy the earlier ones. As I picked up a copy and approached its creator, he was in the middle of dancing with an illustration partner of his. Fine, I have no problem with that! People are there to have fun, so I love seeing this sort of thing going on behind the tables. To a punter, this could make you seem more approachable than if you're sat there looking miserable with your arms folded. What I didn't like, was what happened next.
The comics creator turned and saw me, laughed and walked over to me. Again, this is all fine but then he said "Oh, sorry about that. It's a publisher thing. You wouldn't understand."
"You wouldn't understand"??
I'll spare you the expletives that ran through my head immediately after he said that. If I hadn't already bought the first comics in the series, I would have put down the latest issue and said "No thanks mate, you just lot yourself a sale there."
Now this creator has met me a couple of times. Chatted with me. Sat next to me at another con!! But I don't mind that he didn't recognise me. I've changed my beard a few times, it's been a while etc etc. So him not knowing who I am, I couldnt care less about.
I DO take exception to the "You wouldn't understand" though. If you don't know who I am, you certainly don't know if I'm a publisher or not. I could have worked for Image. Or I could have just had an extensive knowledge of how print works. The arrogance of it astounded me. He's a self publisher. He has a couple of titles out but not so many as to make people even think of him as any different a publisher as the rest of us self publishers. Get down off your high horse chuckles. This isn't some exclusive world to which you are privy that the rest of us are not. It just made him come across as a jumped up, self important, Hipster dick.
That said though, folk often say things without thinking. It just struck me as rude. Particularly at a festival where the small press is king.
So all in all, with that aside, I had a great time. Unfortunately, I got home only to realise I had caught Kris' dreaded con lurgy and I spent all day Tuesday in bed, feeling sorry for myself and playing GTA V.
As a final note, there's one thing I want to mention that I have noticed now from doing the con circuit. Autographs. Signatures. However you refer to them. Buying small press titles, I have noticed that a lot of the time, the comics creator will ask you if you want the comic signed. Now personally, I think this is wrong as it puts you, as the punter, in the position where you feel obligated to say "Yes". I think that it should be in the domain of the punter to ask for one rather than be asked if he wants one. Some people may genuinely want their comics unmarked but don't like to say "no" to signatures. Some might just think "It's small press. Enjoyable but no need to get it signed". Whatever the thinking, I think it should be up to the customer to ask for a signature if they want one rather than feeling pressured into having one. We on Team Scannon don't offer them to people. We get asked a lot to sign them though. This is cooler and feels less like you're putting it on the punter to have it signed. So please, please, please guys, wait to be asked for your signature. Don't offer! Just my own personal opinion. If you want to know more of my reasoning, or have an argument against my logic, please feel free to comment and let me know! Or message me on Twitter or something.

So despite poor sales, I will definitely want to attend Thought Bubble 2014. Hopefully we can get back into the New Dock hall then and better sales will follow. If not, maybe more folk will be aware of the third hall. Either way, at least Jim and I will be in attendance! Even if Kris hasn't got out of his funk and decides not to go...

Anyway, there will be a couple of review blogs to follow. For now, toodle pip!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Pencil Pirates Prints

Earlier this year, Gavin Mitchell and I came up with the idea of doing our own... not so much a company, but joint art venture. It would effectively be a brand that we could use on our print ideas, so that rather than just have us put out our art under our own names at conventions where there are a sea of names to try and remember, we had something punchy that would stick in the mind.
We came up with the Pencil Pirates.
We liked it as it stems from our love of drawing and... um... Monkey Island. It's been slow going but we have finally started to get some stuff together under the PP banner. We also have the intention of using this banner when we publish future small press titles.
Tip: Look out for a nifty little title called "Out 2 Sea" next year.

I'm in the process of getting my shit together to set up a big cartel store for my own stuff, as well as a PP BC store. Gav already has his own Big Cartel store with some of the first PP prints available for purchase there. There's some great stuff so if you feel so inclined, head on over to his store here!

If you're curious about the prints I'll have available, here are some of the new ones I have done (I don't have watermarked ones yet so I've just taken screenshots)

The difference between Justice and Punishment...

A Saints War in the sun
Darkest Knight

These will all be available at A4 size on high quality 280-300GSM paper (Haven't finalised which just yet but both feel pretty much more like card than paper) and will be £5 each, not including P&P.
I'm currently sold out of my Adventure Time prints and very low on the Sandman ones but should hopefully be getting more of those printed up soon too.

If you're interested in any of them, you can message me on Twitter, here or email me at


Monday, 4 November 2013

London MCM and other things

Just over a week ago so Team Scannon attend our first MCM convention in London as exhibitors. We had an idea that this was predominantly a Manga convention so weren't 100% sure how our comic would be received. We had been told it was a great convention for sales by our Small Press brothers responsible for the Moon comic (Brilliant. If you haven't read it yet, I really insist that you do. Absolute genius.) but we had yet to find out for ourselves.

We're here somewhere... Off to the right.

This con saw Jim, Kris and myself going up there on what almost felt like our own. Normally at these conventions we have... like, a crew of us I guess. We have the guys from Stiffs and the Pride there normally as part of our regular team. In fact, at the last convention we worked (Cardiff - see my previous blog entry) we even had Gavin Mitchell's (Stiffs, Pride, Aces Weekly and upcoming Out 2 Sea) girlfriend, Emily, working on our table with us. With Kris off on his own table as a "Guest" (Oh the famous bastard) this was especially handy, as it meant that if Jim or I ever needed to go to the loo, get a drink etc, there was always two people manning the table. Plus with her not having worked on the comic herself, from a selling point of view, she could be more... unbiased? Which can help with sales technique.

What I mean by this, is something I have noticed more at the London MCM than other cons before - Scannon is our baby and we want it to do well. When it comes to selling though, we haven't quite got the perfect balance. It kinda tends to go like this:
Kris tends to oversell (Really tries to get people pumped. I admire the confidence, the man has the biggest balls, but even he's the first to say he doesn't know when to stop himself)
Jim tends to undersell (Loves the comic but he hates the interaction of selling. Not that he doesn't like people, he just doesn't think he has the confidence for it. That said, he's gotten a lot better at it since our first con. Though I doubt he sees it himself...)
I tend to be somewhere in the middle (If i get into my pitch, like Kris, I can't stop myself but if I look at someone and think "Oh they won't be interested" I don't even attempt to pitch. Which is stupid)

Somone who has nothing to do with the comic can just pitch to anyone really without fear of rejection or anything like that. It's not their baby. They don't perhaps have the same vested interest that the creators do. They can find it easier to get the balance right. Maybe? Maybe I should write another blog about convention etiquette or something? As I see it from my own experience? Anyways, point being, it's nice having a... support team, to help take the weight. Working conventions is hard! London is REALLY hard. Maybe that's just because it's... such a big city and not home turf.

Anyway, the convention ended up being great for us. We had our best first day ever, in terms of sales, and our 2nd best con ever, in terms of overall sales. PLUS we got to launch this bad boy there:

Lou Scannon Issue 6 with wrap cover by Huw-J.
We launched issue 6 (Available here with an incredible cover by Huw-J) and it seemed to go down really well! It has also been our most preordered issue to date. This issue really was a labour of love. With me having not long finished working on Issue 3 of The Pride, it really didnt leave much in the way of time to get Scannon done. We managed to crank the baby out in little over a month, though we lacked sleep throughout. It's definitely the best looking issue so far, but even as soon as I finished it, I was looking back through and thinking "I can do better". My work has progressed a fair bit even since finishing this issue! Good thing? Yes, definitely... but equally frustrating too.
We were sat in the comics village right by Scannon friend Sarah Millman, who was there with her comic The Heart of Time. She was launching her issue 2 (Which I picked up of course) and seemed to have a pretty good convention herself. She was, as always, sat with her lovely friend Sian Jefferson, who was launching the first issue of her own comic there- The Book of Fey.
Sarah hooked us up with our one chair for the weekend after someone had stolen the two we had been provided with on the Friday night.
Yep, three of us were crammed behind a very small table where there was very little room to move. I decided to approach it from a different angle and tried selling from in front of the table. I managed to get a few people to come over and have a look, even if they didn't buy anything.

Kris in the zone, Jim hating the camera...
I discovered that an old convention drinking buddy of mine was there working, none other than comics legend John McCrea. John has pretty much worked on all the big titles... Batman, Spider-man, Hitman, Judge Dredd, Preacher, Mars Attacks, The Boys and a personal favourite of mine, Dicks. I popped over to him, had a chat and then mentioned Lou Scannon to him. After a request from me, he took time out of his day to do us a Scannon pinup which we are going to use in the Graph! (Out next year)

Lou Scannon by John McCrea!
All three of us were pretty blown away by Johns take on Lou. Absolutely brilliant job and I can't wait to see it in the trade.
I need to mention as well, my dear friend Serena launched a preview of her own book Elysia there. I got me a copy and it's looking absolutely lovely. If you can pick up a copy, you totally should.
Suffice to say, we will definitely be doing MCM again. Though utterly, utterly exhausting, it was great fun and had a really good atmosphere and gave us great sales!
While there, I purchased Manga Studio 5 for my computer. I have to say, it's taking some getting used to but so far? I am absolutely loving it! I tried it out by first drawing a random made up comic page from scratch. This is what I came up with-

and once that was done, I remembered that we had run out of Scannon business cards at MCM so I, in biro first, drew up a new idea for the new one. Then I scanned it and redrew it in Manga Studio. Kris is colouring it at the moment but here's my take on it:

Left: Biro, Right: Manga Studio 5
So with issue six now done and out of the way, new projects can get developed and issue seven can be started. It's all quite exciting right now in that respect. My prints sold out at MCM and I have a few more Ideas for some other ones. I'll keep you posted on that and if you're interested in buying them, contact me.
I'm also going to be selling my Scannon pages for £30 a page. If you would like a piece of original Scannon art, let me know.
and here's a sneak peak of some Scannon in colour!

I've also come up with an idea as a variant cover for Stiffs. Not sure if it will be going ahead yet, waiting to hear from the boys... but it will be based around this idea I drew up in my sketchbook:

Oh and it's worth mentioning! Halloween has just passed us by, and I had a hoot! I actually spent some time on my costume this year and did myself up as Batman villain, Twoface! Here's a look at the burned up Dan!:

Harvey Dant
I was trying to keep this short but blatantly failed. I shouldn't leave so long between blogs I guess.
I'll try do another blog about my prints when I have more done and in print. Next though is the Sheffield tattoo convention. While there I am kinda hoping that some of a flash set I have designed will sell. I'll post a pic. They'll be going at £15 a copy. Let me know if you would like one at

Candy Skull goodness