A potted history (2007-2013)

In May 2013, I wrote a short history of my comics-making to mark five years since I started self-publishing. It originally appeared on my tumblr, but you can read it below.

Prologue
2007

  • visit Travelling Man on Park St, Bristol. First trip to a comic shop in a while.
  • Another visit to Travelling Man. Pick up and flick through Kevin Huizenga’s Curses
  • visit Travelling Man, look at Curses again
  • Start drawing
  • visit Travelling Man, nearly buy Curses
  • buy Curses
  • Buy Best American Comics 2007
  • Travelling Man fountain of knowledge Tom Trewhella  recommends King Cat and Jeffrey Brown. Doomed to an existence of drawing comics about my life (I blame Tom)
  • Go back to Travelling Man. Discover lots of people have been self-publishing for a long time. Feel inspired and intimidated
  • Draw my first comic about wandering around town, thinking. Little do I know this will be my formula for the next 5 + years.

Comics begin!
2008

  • Publish SMOO #1 in May with the help of Nick and Dom. Print about 20 copies on a photocopier somewhere. Probably at work.
  • Visit the Bristol Comic and Small Press Expo. See a lot Dr Who things and people dressed up as comic book characters. Leave comics on tables, trade them with stallholders. Meet Rob Jackson for the first time.
  • Start drawing SMOO #2
  • Finish drawing SMOO #2 with the exception of one panel on one page
  • Do nothing
  •  Start drawing more comics that I think will be SMOO #3
  • Fail to draw final panel of SMOO #2
  • Continue to be crippled by self-doubt
  • Start drawing a comic about our trip to Lisbon earlier in the year
  • In September, start drawing a daily diary. Manage most days until November
  • Still fail to draw final panel of SMOO #2
  • Fail to finish anything else

A fallow year
2009

  • Not really sure what I did this year. I must have done something. Probably did some drawing I didn’t like.
  • June: Finally finish that last panel of SMOO #2. It takes about 5 minutes.
  • Nick starts making comics. Nick is an old friend and his doing comics helps inspire and push me to do more and publish my work. Try and return the favour. Pivotal moment.
  • December: local vintage/art shop SHOP offer me an exhibition and chance to sell comics in the New Year. Decide it’s time to get back on the horse.

Spending valuable time in the photocopy room
2010

  • January: publish SMOO #2 and reprint SMOO #1. Host 24hr draw-a-thon at SHOP. I don’t draw much, but it’s fun.
  • Start finishing the comics that I had drawn and not published back in 2008
  • Do a two-pager for Rob Jackson’s Gin Palace anthology that gets me noticed by Richard Bruton of Forbidden Planet International. He orders my comics and reviews them. Has been a supporter ever since, and a key figure in giving me the confidence to carry on
  • Do a piece for the gone-but-not-forgotten Daily Crosshatch
  • At some point finish and publish Lisbon zine
  • May: attend Bristol Comic Expo for my first time as an exhibitor. Meet Irish contingent including Paddy Lynch and Phillip Barrett. Get them, and us, very drunk.
  • Finish comics originally destined for SMOO #3 and instead publish them as SMOO #2 ½, an interim collection.
  • Start work on what will become SMOO #3.
  • Establish a zine library at SHOP
  • Run a half marathon
  • Finish my PhD
  • Finish SMOO #3 (much hand-wringing and self-doubt)
  • Attend Thought Bubble in Leeds with Nick for the first time. Launch SMOO #3. Meet Lando properly.
  • Return to Bristol and establish Bear Pit Zine with Nick and Lando.
  • Draw picture for my friend’s Christmas Single
  • Finish 2010 feeling oddly dissatisfied with the work I’d produced, but excited, too, to be making things and getting work out there.

Ch ch ch changes.
2011

  • Start 2011 wanting to do something different with my comics. Start work on the Escapologist as an experiment in drawing differently.
  • Parents prepare to move away from Marlow. Reflecting on teenage years becomes focus of SMOO #4
  • Finish Escapologist #1
  • Release Bear Pit #1
  • Have stupid idea about doing a newsprint anthology and convince Nick it’s a great idea/strong-arm into being co-editor
  • Attend London Small Press and Comic Expo. Have fun despite poor turn-out.
  • Start work on SMOO #4
  • crowd-fund and publish ‘The Sorry Entertainer’ newspaper anthology with Nick
  • Appear on a panel at Bristol Expo, talking about comics and mental health. Meet Ian Williams and Katie Green who I’m happy to count as friends today. Start an important process of confronting, thinking about, drawing and dealing with mental health issues through comics. Destined to become an important part of my non-comics life.
  • Establish Better, Drawn, a place for people to share their experiences of long term mental and physical illness in the form of comics
  • September, host our first Bristol Comic and Zine Fair organised by Bear Pit. Draw another comic for the Daily Cross-hatch.
  • Scrap 40 pages of writing and illustration about Marlow for SMOO#4. Pick up a pencil and start scribbling instead.
  • Another pivotal moment: #30DaysComics. Join Derik Badman’s retinue of people drawing a comic a day for 30 days. Discover Warren Craghead, Allan Haverholm, Derik’s work in more depth, become better acquainted with Oliver East’s work. Pick up a pencil and start to turn my back on pens for a while. Reinvent my process. Let go. Learn to love drawing.
  • Go to Thought Bubble, release an early version of SMOO #4 and the Escapologist #2
  • Come home and try and take some time to think about all the changes my practice is going through. Become committed to comics but frustrated and somehow disillusioned with the UK scene.
  • Apply for TCAF 2012.
  • Finish the year with a new approach to comics,  a doctorate in Geography, but a bit sour on UK comics shows.

Gaining steam
2012

  • January: get accepted into TCAF
  • set to work on SMOO #5. Draw 40 pages in three months. Pencils, inks. Short stories, long stories. Explore a very difficult year of my life. Put that year to rest and move on. Create the first comic of which I’m unreservedly proud. Learn about drawing, learn about pencils.
  • Publish a full version of SMOO #4
  • Start my first proper job after finishing the PhD in 2010.
  • Leave first proper job after a month for another job that lasts for longer.
  • Go to TCAF in May and launch SMOO #5. Another pivotal moment. Feel accepted by comics makers and readers. Feel like I’m finding a voice. Meet loads of people. Teach medical illustration students about Graphic Medicine with Ian, co-host a panel on comics and mental health at the convention. Meet John P, Box Brown, L. Nichols and other lovely people. (TCAF reports pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3)
  • Box Brown asks me to do a Retrofit book once he knows what the next roster of artists will be.
  • Move house, settle into new routines, new spaces, new work, new drawings
  •  Do lots of anthology work – Moonshot, Bear Pit, Decadence, Not My Small Diary etc to help me explore my style. Not always great work from me, I don’t think, but important.
  • Start drawing SMOO #6
  • Second Bristol Comic and Zine Fair
  • Start Frank Santoro’s comics course but drop out – it’s a thing of greatness, but I couldn’t commit the time and the energy and the focus it deserved.
  • November. Start #30DaysComics, but can’t keep up
  • Don’t go to Thought Bubble as I’m on holiday in New York. Launch  SMOO #6 at  Desert Island in Brooklyn. Feel like things are happening, in a quiet, modest way.
  • Secure distro from a bunch of US distributors: Spit and a Half, Pioneers Press, Secret Acres
  • Kick up a fuss in four parts about the British Comics Awards
  • Finish the year more dedicated to comics than ever. Have a job where I feel I’m able to identify myself as both cartoonist and academic. Confident about my new voice in drawing, if unsure that I’m doing it right. Then again, what is doing it right?? Do it wrong and have fun!

Onwards and upwards
2013

  • Commit to at least 4 more issues of SMOO by launching a subscription service.
  • start the year drawing my Retrofit book, ‘Grand Getures’. 44 pages, drawn in thick pencil
  • Mental health wobbles. Subconsciously seeps into Grand Gestures.
  • Trying to maintain drawing/life balance.
  • Go on holiday. Draw a zine about it, a successor to Lisbon all these years later. Try to get better. Working on being well.
  • Get a table at SPX with Warren Craghead.
  • Positive reviews for comics. Drawing developing. Working on SMOO #7. Determined to keep drawing and making comics.
  • ???