As a freelancer, I often get asked to work on projects speculatively.
Sometimes the projects go somewhere, sometimes they don’t. I rarely do it as it can be a heartbreaking process when you get invested in a book that reaches a dead-end but it’s all part of the freelance life. I thought it might be nice to share some of the early work I did on a couple of projects that, for various reasons, never went further. I think enough time has passed on both of them that I can share these…
The book I was extremely excited to work on was a comic adaptation of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Those who have read the book will know just how powerful and vital the book is, and I was flattered to be asked to write and draw an adaptation for the publisher with Alexander overseeing it. I had written a rough script and drawn some example pages (see below) but the project ended up going on the indefinite back-burner. The comic was going to be printed in two colours hence the limited palette used here. I can’t recommend the book enough and would also recommend seeking out The House I Live In (a documentary with similar themes, in which Alexander also appears). I’ve not yet watched Ava DuVernay’s 13th on Netflix, but it also looks essential.
I was also asked to illustrate a page for a book about Neuroscience. There are some typos and missing text due to the early draft of the script. In the end, the authors went in a different direction.
“I am honestly one of the good ones.”
Quick summary: A young woman is left as the caretaker of a posh New York brownstone. Is the building haunted and trying to drive her mad?
From the opening scenes, the immediately reminded me of The Innocents and, perhaps most obviously, Repulsion. Polanski is clearly a touchstone for director Mickey Keating here. There are so many similarities to Repulsion is terms of story, themes and aesthetic that it would be tempting to dismiss it as a derivative work – certainly, anyone who has seen Repulsion will know how the film will end. But Keating brings his own directorial flair enough that it comes across more as an inventive love letter to seventies satanic horror than an outright copy. Honestly, I’d love to see more modern directors take their cues this era of horror cinema.
I enjoyed Keating’s previous film Pod – another tense psychological horror that played with a lot of the same ideas as Friedkin’s Bug. He uses some similar techniques from his first film here (subtle strobe effects, disturbing sound design, off-putting editing) and I think this film cements his reputation as one of the most interesting horror directors working today. I need to seek out his most recent film – Carnage Park.
Lauren Ashley Carter, who also appeared in Pod (as well as Jug Face/The Pit – which also starred Sean Young who has a cameo in Darling) is excellent as the unnamed protagonist (“You didn’t even ask me my name.”). She has to carry the film almost entirely without dialogue and she makes it look easy.
I liked the six title cards introducing each chapter – the playful typography and timing of them added a much needed element of (black) humour to the film.
Also enjoyed the non-specific era the film is set in – no modern signifiers and the music and clothing is well chosen to allow the film to have a timeless quality.
It’s a Glass Eye Pix film so – Larry Fessenden cameo time!
I also watched:
“Victoria. Come. Mama.”
Quick summary: Two children go missing due to some plot, only for them to be discovered five years later. Having lived in the woods all this time. When they’re taken in by their Uncle (Jamie Lannister) and his partner (Jessica Chastain), it becomes apparent that whatever took care of them is still around – and they call it “mama”.
I was absolutely in the mood for a decent ghost story horror film this week and this didn’t disappoint. Directed by Spanish filmmaker Andres Muschietti based on his short of the same name (it’s here and only two mins of your time), and exec produced by Guillermo Del Toro. This has the ambitions of The Orphanage in terms of delivering a solid ghost story with heart and soul – and while it isn’t as successful as The Orphanage, it’s in the same spirit.
The kids are excellent – the physicality of them as they scuttle around in Exorcist spider-like fashion is brilliantly creepy and they handle the later emotional scenes well. Chastain, the reluctant new mother, is almost unrecognisable in heavy eyeliner, Misfits tee and tattooed up while Jaime Lannister is fine as the new father and ridiculously handsome illustrator (“Annabel is in a band, and you draw pictures for a living…” – said in a moment when their fitness for parenthood is questioned).
So we’ve got the popular paedophobia horror theme, some early fairytale table-setting (the film opens with “Once Upon A Time…”) and ghost effects that cherrypick pieces from Dark Water, Ringu, and – as the director said – “a Modigliani painting left to rot.” All in all, a recipe for some slightly generic but satisfying horror.
I enjoyed some of the early scenes with the ghost playing with the children – it was pretty sweet while being unnerving. It had me hoping for a Beetlejuice style ending that had everyone living peacefully together. While that doesn’t happen (and Del Toro apparently had to fight for the bittersweet ending) I liked the choices made in that final act. It didn’t feel like a paint-by-numbers horror ending and while I found that refreshing, I think that will possibly annoy some viewers.
Dr Exposition was a bit of bum note and he makes some monumentally moronic decisions to keep the plot ticking along. But even that left me feeling endearingly towards the movie. Maybe I’ve just been broken by watching 16 horror films in eight days.
Tonight: Not sure yet… Only tonight and tomorrow left so I need to figure out what my final four movies will be.
Check out the archive of the horror week here.
Here’s the artwork for a three page illustrated adaptation of Walt Whitman’s Dirge For Two Veterans. You can read the full poem here. This was commissioned by Oxford University Press for their For The Fallen and other poems book. The book is part of their Graphic Texts series that encourage children to read and learn with comics.
You can pick up a copy of the book here.
Eleri Harris at The Nib asked if I’d like to write a short reaction piece to the Brexit result. After taking a week to finish my tennis comic and get some perspective, I produced a short 12 panel piece which you can read here. Huge thanks to Eleri for her help on this. Short preview below:
Needless to say, it’s been a tough fortnight here.
If you didn’t see my piece about the EU Referendum before the results, it can be read here.
I grew up watching Wimbledon and it would always coincide with the start of my summer holidays. I think, largely because of that, I’ve always had a soft spot for the sport. It’s only been the past few years that I’ve really tried to follow the tour throughout the year, but my love for the sport has grown the more I learn about it.
I was recently talking with my friend, and fantastic writer/journalist, Alex Macpherson – who is much more knowledgable than I am about tennis – and we tried to devise a way for us to collaborate on something tennis related.
This piece for Vox is the result. A 29 panel look at tennis in 2016. Vox don’t cover sport so the we tried to reign ourselves in from the more obscure stories and keep the summary as news-focused as possible.
I really hope we get more opportunities to work together on tennis comics as I had so much fun drawing this. I want to draw an entire comic about Serena Williams. And one about all the up and comers. I also hope I can do some tennis illustrations in the future too. Basically, more drawing about tennis!
Here’s a sneak peek at the piece – the whole thing can be read here. Huge thanks to AD Javier Zarracina for all his help on the piece.
Other tennis related things I’ve been enjoying: The collection of David Foster Wallace essays about tennis – String Theory – is a delight, Alex invited me along to the Roehampton Wimbledon Qualifiers a couple of weeks ago – which I didn’t realise was free to attend – and it was brilliant – loads of new faces and exciting stories, I’m currently reading Love Game: A History of Tennis, from Victorian Pastime to Global Phenomenon which is very interesting, I subscribed to this lovely looking tennis magazine – Racquet, and the Serena documentary on the BBC was great. I’ve also ordered a couple of ESPN 30 For 30 docs – one about Navratilova and Evert’s rivalry, and one about Jimmy Connors. Speaking of 30 For 30 – have you been watching the OJ: Made In America doc? It’s great right? Seek it out if you haven’t!
I was asked by Titan if I’d like to illustrate the September Doctor Who cover. I couldn’t say no to that. It was such a fun commission and I hope I get to try my hand at more in the future.
The solicitations for Titan’s September comics are listed here. I think the order code for this is STL015068.
This is for the finale issue of year two of the Eleventh Doctor – written by Si Spurrier and Rob Williams with art by Simon Fraser.
This comic went live a few days ago on The Nib. I’ve been working on it for a while – trying my hardest to make the forthcoming EU Referendum as accessible and entertaining as possible. It was a huge help working with my editor Eleri Harris who guided me through the process of editing down a potentially sprawling 70-80 panel comic into this relatively succinct 40 panel piece.
You can read the full comic here.
The comic had to to do several things: it needed to communicate the situation to international readers who were not as exposed to the more complex inner workings of UK politics, but it also needed to be useful to those in the UK who were unsure how to vote. I wanted to be as fair and as balanced as possible, presenting the facts and opposing sides clearly – while not being afraid to state my own opinions and disingenuously pretend I didn’t have a bias. I wanted to make sure the comic was honest.
There are all sorts of issues I didn’t cover, and some that I couldn’t spend as much real-estate on as I wanted, but I’m proud of how this came out and hope it’s helpful to people. I hope it provokes deeper dives into some of the issues and concerns it raises and I hope it, at the very least, encourages some more voters to get registered now we have a slightly extended deadline.
If you’re annoyed the comic didn’t discuss a particular issue or skimmed something you think deserved more interrogation, I hope you’ll appreciate that I probably spent days agonising over whether to include it or not, but in the end had to create the EU comic I wanted to see.
Thanks for reading and sharing it if you have already done so.
There are still a few hours left to register to vote if you haven’t yet – the website is here.
And if you want to stay in the EU and want to help out, but don’t know where to start, you could do worse than check out The In Crowd – it has a handy function that helps you find the best way to get involved.
I was honoured to be asked to provide the artwork for the cover and here’s a look at the front:
Find out more about Chrissy and the book here.
Another poem comic that Chrissy Williams and I collaborated on recently.
It’s called When I Write I Use Every Part Of Myself.
If you liked this, Chrissy and I co-edited a book about poetry comics called Over The Line: An Introduction to Poetry Comics – available here.
You can see the rest of our collaborative poetry comics by clicking on the Poem Comics category in the sidebar.
Chrissy also runs the Poetry & Comics Tumblr which is worth a follow.
Here’s a new poem comic that Chrissy Williams and I have been working on recently.
It’s called Wake.
Click to enlarge.
Last year, Chrissy and I co-edited a book about poetry comics (Over The Line: An Introduction to Poetry Comics – available here!) but had, before that, collaborated on a few of our own. It was nice to return to creating poetry comics together and hopefully we’ll be doing lots more in the future!
You can see the rest of our work by clicking on the Poem Comics category in the sidebar.
Chrissy also runs the Poetry & Comics Tumblr which is worth a follow!