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Ya do Ron, Ron, Ron, ya do Ron, Ron ...

As I've mentioned before, earlier this year I had the singular pleasure of interviewing the peerless Ron Smith.

Well, the fruits of that particular labour have achieved ripeness and the first of a two-part feature by yours truly can now be found in the Judge Dredd Megazine #288, on sale now from all good newsagents and comic book shops.

Should you wish them, the details of issue's contents can be found at the wonderful Barney database.

Quite pleased with the results, though it's helped in no small way by some nice design work by the ol' bods at the Nerve Centre.

Go buy!

When did superheroes stop being heroes?

Tucked behind the Victorian steam-punk airiness of the university museum in Oxford with its pant-wettingly-kid-friendly dinosaur skeletons and stuffed birds, the Pitt-Rivers Museum is nothing short of a dark and musty cabinet of wonders. In this pit of discovery the expanding cornea lets in greater marvels than just slim degrees of dim, grainy light; shrunken heads, totemic dolls, drawers stuffed with labelled simulacra, coins assembled from at least two of the four corners of the Earth.

From one of the darkened glass cabinets, already crammed with disparate artefacts probably pilfered by a Tally Ho don from villagers in return for a tin of Spam and a Zippo lighter, stare two implacable, unblinking, inverted triangular eyes. On a tall, narrow, slightly curved and bark-coloured shield sits a painted effigy of head and shoulders of The Phantom.

The shield, from the Wahgi Valley in Papua New Guinea, is traditional but the image is modern and, according to the little information board, “reflects the link Wahgi men traditionally make between moral uprightness and success on the battlefield”.

The Phantom always was one of those characters - certain in their mission, confident in their abilities, who laughed in the face of danger and knew right from wrong in a loveable pre-war kind of way. And for at least for one tribesman in Papua New Guinea, he meant everything that was noble, good and … well … heroic. Such was the moral fortitude of this fictional hero, that to allude to him was enough for a Wahgi warrior to signal to his enemies that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Ignoring the movie version (in which the shockingly-poor Billy Zane transformed him into a smirking fool) The Phantom is a hero, like heroes used to be. No especially dark undertones, no childhood riven by self-doubt, no crossing-the-line psychosis. A big, manly hero. A big, muscled, manly hero dressed mainly in skin-tight purple lycra …

The most shocking thing about the news that the equally upstanding Captain Marvel is to finally make his big screen appearance is how it took Hollywood so long to seriously consider bringing a character that at one time could rival Batman and Superman in popularity to life. It’s not as if they’ve not tried before, but it’s never really taken off. The problem is that, even by the standards of the too-good-for-his-own-good Kal-El of Kryptonite, Marvel was too goody-goody, too self-righteous: who wants to see a movie about a really, really nice bloke?

But he’s a hero - he’s decent and proper and sensible and wise … yet we’re more interested in orphans with revenge complexes, socialites with sudden attacks of conscience and vain scientists who turn themselves green. When *did* superheroes stop being heroic?

They’ll tell you it was ‘a more innocent age’ back then (before the Marvel revolution of the ‘60s meant all heroes had to have a hang-up) as if slaughtering Korean villagers and nuke-frying the eyeballs of conscripts was some kind of naïve mistake committed in the ‘50s by jolly but psychotically-naïve politicians, who were still good boys who loved their mothers. It bloody wasn’t a more innocent age, it just knew what was decent, and noble, and moral. Not moral in the sense that it was actually RIGHT, just moral in the sense that it had at least an idea of what it *thought* was right. Heroes were heroic, heroes were good, heroes were the kind of guys you’d paint pictures of on your battle shield because you wanted people to know that you were heroic and good and noble.

Heroes used to be heroes.

"... the court heard ..."

Ron Smith is an old man. I sat in the room of his tidy one-bedroom flat in Surrey a couple of months ago, flicking through albums of photo taken in animation studios now long gone. The young man perched on a stool at his drawing board, pipe clenched between his teeth, still bore a remarkable resemblance to the man sat across from me, the hair has lost its colour and the pipe is long gone but it's still Ron. The former Spitfire pilot and veteran of decades in comic book illustration was, and remains, a charming host. The results of the interview, and hopefully a little insight into Ron's fascinating life, will appear in the Judge Dredd Megazine soon.

But afterwards, something quite terrible happened. Ron's name made it into the media for all the wrong reasons.

Thankfully, he was found not guilty by a unanimous decision. Both rape and false allegations of rape cause misery and destroy lives, I'm not going to talk about the merits of the case - I wasn't in court, didn't hear the evidence, and found out the verdict only by phoning the court myself. His daughter, Sue, responded to the verdict with understandable relief here.

This post isn't about Ron Smith, or the case itself. It's about the reporting of it, how people can misunderstand court reporting, and how journalists bend the rules to suit their headlines.

When the story hit the internet forums, the Sun was accused of conducting a "trial by media" that was "reprehensible" and "irresponsible". It was unanimously agreed that the reporter was scum and a low down dirty rat. I'm sorry. But they were none of those things. The reaction to the story was just as knee-jerk as someone who automatically assumed the allegations were true.

As a good friend and fellow journo succinctly put it: "A court is a public forum, which is why names are used in court case reports. With certain exceptions, courtrooms are open to the public, and a report in a newspaper is a reflection of what the public would see". Idealistically, reporters attend court and report what happens for two reasons: 1) to prove that justice isn't just done but is seen to be done; 2) so that the public doesn't have to be there itself.

Fewer and fewer people buy or even read a newspaper nowadays. That's not just a problem for newspapers, it's a problem for us - we are slowly becoming more and more unused to waiting for our news. I spent more years than I care to remember in a newsroom, and many listless hours sat on uncomfortable court benches watching the wheels of justice grind slowly, slowly, then maddeningly quickly. Yet the reactions to court reports have led me to believe that while we have more news than we know what to do with, we are losing the ability to understand it properly. Conventions that have lasted for decades are fading from our consciousness as we are exposed to outlets that either ignore them or never knew they existed.

Take the humble inverted comma. The Sun's headline when it reported the case was " ... Girl of 13 'abused by artist' ...". Note the use of inverted commas - they tell you that it's reporting a claim, not a fact. They're a sub-editor's best friends because they can leave words out such as 'a court heard' or 'the prosecution claimed', clarifying words that would make any sub's head ache if he had to include them. Then there's "a court heard yesterday". That nicely lets you repeat what the prosecution said, before making it clear that it's an individual saying it rather than a judgement of the court. You could do the same with the defence and the verdict.

And that's where we run into trouble. Because some people do not read the "a court heard" bit. They read the sentence before it. And they tend to either accept it as fact or rail against it as "trial by media" and "bad reporting". But it's not bad reporting, it's following the conventions of the medium. Stick in the words "denies all charges" and, at the end "The trial continues" and you've done enough to satisfy the law. But the law was formulated in the days when people read their daily newspapers and you could reasonably expect that roughly the same number read the report of the verdict as had read the report of the first day. That's just not the case anymore. And it's not helped when newspapers, and I'm looking at you red-tops, report the often-sensational prosecution claims and evidence from the first day and then don't follow it up with reports of the defence or the verdict. Take issue with your average hack or news editor about this and they'll tell you what I used to tell people - they operate within the law and make it 'clear' that it's an ongoing case. But it's hard to read it like that and newspaper are under no obligation to report the verdict, there's no law that insists that the verdict be reported. And even if there is, what news editor worth their salt will waste space on reporting a  verdict that ultimately doesn't back up that earlier, juicier detail? Those conventions I've mentioned protect a way of court reporting that has existed for decades, allowing reporters to use the least amount of space to put across the maximum amount of effort.

Internet news has accelerated this. Many readers look for instant facts, instantly presented. They don't read the internet like they used to read a paper. It's an old newspaper maxim that you have the first four paragraphs, at most, to get your story across or the reader will stop reading. Internet news is even quicker - you literally have milliseconds. When you can no longer hold onto your readers for anything longer than a few seconds, you haven't got the liberty of taking your time.

So what do you do? Wait till the end of the trial to report all the facts in a reasoned manner? That's fine if you can spare a reporter for a week or two to make sure you get everything (and then don't resent a full page court report), or if you don't mind being trumped by your competitors who happily take daily copy from a freelancer sat in court. Then there's the problem that if a red-top followed evert trial it reported on from beginning to end your daily copy of the Sun would be court reporting from start to finish (literally!). There are plenty of good papers out there who report court stories responsibly, but these tend to be in the local press.

So it's the conventions, not the fact, of court reporting that needs to change. Journalism needs to drop these old slights-of-hand, because the way people read news isn't the same anymore.

I didn't like what the Sun had to say - I'd met Ron and found him to be a decent and extremely likeable man. I was relieved when the court's listings officer told me the result. But, as frustrating as it was, the report about Ron Smith's trial wasn't misreporting or assuming guilt, it wasn't even biased - it was a report of the first day of a court trial. Yet in the age of multi-platform, international news, the norms of news consumption that reporters once took for granted are evaporating. The way such news is reported must change with it.


Ron Smith trial verdict

I can confirm that at 3pm today the jury in the trial of veteran 2000AD artist Ron Smith unanimously found him not guilty of rape and sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in the early '80s. Guildford Crown Court confirmed the details


Touch of Cla$$

Everything you know is a lie.
Sound familiar? Yeah, eight years of American Neo-Con crap can do that to you. President Bush and his conservative cronies have made cynics of us all: terrorist attacks have become government plots, wars merely pretexts. Military industrial complexes pull political strings and no-one bats an eyelid – conspiracy, once the soul domain of X-Files obsessives, is now normality. But before 2001, before planes smashing into skyscrapers, before Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act and Extraordinary Rendition, a living, breathing human weapon realised that everything he knew was, in fact, lies… and decided to take the US president skydiving without a parachute: Cla$$war, the angry, visceral debut of Low Life and Indiana Jones writer Rob Williams with Dredd and Strontium Dog artist Trevor Hairsine, has been published as a collected edition.
Coming as a sexed-up dossier of its own (it includes a brand new eight-page story with original scripts, sketches, posters) Cla$$war also comes with something the slick designers didn’t intend to include: hindsight. Conceived before Bush’s reign, with cynical dollar signs in its title and a righteously angry pre-millennial shattering of the American dream, Cla$$war was an impressive beginning not just for Williams but also for indie publisher ComX, aided in no small part by 2000 AD veteran Hairsine. Its timing weighs heavy: its overt political message saw the book delayed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
But eight years on times have changed. In the hazy warm glow of the Obama presidency, clandestine plotting at the heart of the US government seems… well, positively old hat. What place this distrust in the New World Order turned to Brave New World?
‘I worried how it would read in the Obama era, I’ll admit,’ says Williams. ‘I thought it may not be relevant. But I’ve since realised that it exists on its own merits as a work of fiction just as much now as it did back in 2001. The reaction to it now has been surprisingly positive, regardless of who’s in the White House.
‘Cla$$war was about American politics rather than that of one individual.’
Pre-dating the superheroes-with-real-world-ethics of The Authority, Clas$$war was William’s first ever foray into writing comics, his band of superhero stereotypes everything ‘90s comic book heroes were about - arrogant, powerful, aloof, manipulated.
Superheroes-as-weapons wasn’t new – Alan Moore created the walking WMD that was Doctor Manhattan in the ‘80s, but The America and his beefed up gang are something more sinister – even their collective name, Enola Gay, is a by-word for American supremacism. This is the vision of the world as Bush found it, with the US firmly on top.
Williams calls it 'Noam Chomsky meets Miracleman'.
'I was asked this at the Bristol convention and, after stumbling around desperately, I eventually burbled out “It’s superheroes meets Rage Against The Machine.” Then I wished I’d thought of that tagline when Cla$$war first came out eight years ago,' he says.
'It’s basically a mature readers meld of comics like The Authority and The Ultimates with beyond-militant left wing politics concerning American domestic and foreign policy. I think that’s part of its appeal. Not many comics have done that so overtly over the years.''
The depth and energy of the series was all the more surprising considering it was Williams' first work for comics. A lifelong comic fan, he had been writing scripts for a video production company when he wrote the script for issue one of Cla$$war 'as a test for myself' with a view to maybe self-publishing. Allowing many artists and writers the chance to circumvent the always difficult and often closed paths into comics, Com.X was a young upstart publisher that attracted big names such as Mike McMahon and attention with fresh, often humorous titles such as Bazooka Jules.
Williams took up the chance to pitch Cla$$war to the company at the Bristol comic convention in 1999. Months later, he had his answer.
He had got his ‘in’.
But the success of Cla$$war owes as much, if not more, to the glorious artwork of Hairsine, who had made the jump to America after being discovered by 2000 AD. Grounded, confident, Hairsine's work gave the strip a remarkable depth, a marrying between the 'real' world and that of costumed superheroes which meant that the dissolution of The American's world view felt all the more meaningful. Williams is the first to acknowledge the importance of Hairsine's work on the title.
'I was incredibly lucky,' he admits. 'He’s got such an amazing dynamism and inherent sense of drama in his work. And considering I was a rookie writer, Trev would iron out some of my more naïve storytelling mistakes. Take the “Heavyweight getting his jaw punched off” page as an example. That got us a lot of attention, especially from Wizard in the States. Well, if I recall correctly, I think the script had two panels on that page. Trev read it, recognised it was a ‘money shot’, moved one panel to the page previous and made it a splash.
'Trev was an enormous part of the success of Cla$$war. For me, he does that real world superheroes thing about as well as anyone. His art style naturally suited the tone I was going for in the script.'As I’ve found out many times since, you can write a script with a feel in mind, but the artist can miss the point or just has a different aesthetic and you don’t end up with a coherent comic as a result. Trev and I were coming from the same place on Cla$$war immediately. I think that shows.
'It is, frankly, criminal that we’ve not worked together since, especially since he’s one of my best friends. We’ve tried a few times but it’s fallen through either due to me, him or outside forces.'
Sadly, Hairsine drew only the first three issues: problems at Com.X, including a serious burglary, forced a gap between issue three and four by which time he had moved onto Marvel. The reins were handed over to Travel Foreman, but masterful continuity was provided by Len O’Grady’s sober, cool colouring. Hairsine’s initial work was nonetheless eye-grabbing, and succeeded in generating a lot of attention.
Reviewers gushed at this fresh take on the genre. For a brand new writer and a fledging publisher, Cla$$war was an unexpected hit – as much for Williams as for anyone.
‘I was surprised by the initial positive reaction. It was my first attempt at writing comics and I remember feeling that I’d cracked it and that this was obviously my calling... When the next comic I wrote – Asylum for 2000AD – had a somewhat underwhelming reaction, it took me aback somewhat. It turned out that this writing comics thing was hard work and wasn’t a breeze.'
After such an impressive debut, Williams naturally found it difficult to overcome the weight of expectation that had been laid upon his shoulders. Although now well-known by 2000 AD readers for his work on series such as Low Life, he admits the reality of his new-found career was harder than he thought it would be. He recognises that he was very much ‘in the right place at the right time’, being provided with opportunities far beyond what most first-time writers experience.
‘If it wasn’t for Com.X I may not have got my foot in the door of comics and wouldn’t have enjoyed the creativity of the past eight years, I’d not have met the same people in the comics world, people who’ve become among my best friends.
‘It’s quite a debut by anyone's standing.
‘To be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing when I wrote Cla$$war. I’d certainly not mastered the form, I was ignorant about storytelling structure and very ignorant about how the industry worked, how to pitch to prospective new publishers, things like that... Cla$$war was really the sum of my influences mixed in with some nascent talent and a somewhat naïve passion. But I still didn’t really know how to write a comic, in many ways.
‘It took me several years after Cla$$war to feel like I learnt my craft – something I’m still learning - and a lot of public successes and mistakes along the way. The more you write, the more you know what you’re doing. I think I’m a much better writer now than I was then. But, having said all this, Cla$$war is easily the most popular of all the comics I’ve written in the last eight years. Go figure.’
An injection of the real world into the cosy superhero closet, it took titles such as The Authority and Rising Stars years to travel where Williams led. Angry, impressive: Cla$$war wasn’t just British scepticism about the essentially optimistic superhero ideal, it was a future echo of the Age of Cynicism, when all ideals are turned to ash. The collected edition reminds us of when, perhaps, life was a bit simpler.
‘It’s very nice to see it collected finally,’ says Williams, ‘but moreso than that, it’s cool to see it in such a superb package. Eddie Deighton at Com.X knows his design – it’s what the company does – and he was adamant from the start that we all make this something akin to a Criterion DVD release. Lots of extras.
'So, it’s hardcover with a gorgeous new dust jacket by Trev Hairsine, we’ve got multiple introductions by myself, Andy Diggle and Craig Lemon, one of the comics journalists who first championed the book, there’s a brand new eight page story by myself and Trev Hairsine, my original script, sketches, posters by people like Mick McMahon and Ben Oliver. And the original six issues, of course. This statement sounds like hyperbole but, genuinely, it’s not – this is one of the best looking graphic novels you’re ever likely to see.'’
In the Obama era full of Jenny Sharps and distrustful supes, the premise behind Cla$$war seems almost quaint. Broadsides at the US government may be ten-a-penny, but Cla$$war was the right writer, the right artist and the right idea at just the right time.
And, for all its modern American cynicism, it was served with a distinctly British brand of humour: ‘I think that’s easy to miss about Cla$$war,’ says Williams. ‘Any comic with the line “I’m sorry Mr President, it appears my left leg has just eaten your dog” can’t be too po-faced.’

The shock of being alive

From Hell is not about Jack The Ripper.
Woah there! Read that bit again. Yes, that *is* indeed a suggestion that Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's sprawling, visceral, peerless graphic novel that centres around the series of horrific murders in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888, is not actually about the figure long accused of committing them - the infamous but uncaught 'Jack the Ripper'.
Sure, it includes them, it features them, it revolves around them, but it's not *about* them. It's not really about the man Moore fingers as the suspect, Royal surgeon William Gull - though he makes it clear this isn't your tour guide if-you've-enjoyed-this-talk-why-not-buy-my-book-only-£10 'Ripper exposé'. It's not about the women he eviscerates. Nor even the police investigation or the conspiracy that surrounds it.
It is about the shock of being alive.
As each murder takes place, Gull's already tenuous grip on reality slips a bit further. He spouts long-winded diatribes about the timelessness of architecture, his divine mission and that of the Freemasons to which he belongs: around himself he creates a scaffold of eternity, a stairway to the heavens: his work is to shake the very foundations of the world by punching through that thin tissue of reality.
Each murder brings fresh hallucinations: as he passes a window, Gull suddenly sees through into a 1960s living room complete with TV; at another point he salutes defiantly before a towering modern office block. With the last murder though, he finds himself fully immersed, yet invisible, in a modern office: presumably the very one now stood on the site of the crime scene. Faxes whirr, office workers chat on telephones, printers chutter. A normal office scene: clean, modern, banal, dead.
Animated, Gull mounts a desk and, like some Biblical doomsayer, remonstrates with the dead-eyed office workers, all deaf to his cries: their world is full of wonder, yet they do not look up; their women are virtually naked, yet their passions are not aroused. Where is their life?! He has built an edifice to life, to eternity! Must monstrous acts take place before your very eyes before you will awake from your slumber?! Is the shock of death the only thing that will open their eyes to the wondrous nature of being alive?!
The irony, of course, is that the very shock and novelty of the Ripper murders were the reason they became so passé, so commonplace. That initial jolt, the disbelief, gives way to hunger - and as we feast the morsels needed to sate that new hunger must grower larger and richer. We become inured, immune. we stop feeling. The modern world *is* unfeeling, it *is* numbed by exposure. The paradox is that the Ripper murders were a vivid, early example of the mass media reporting of violent crime that, today, has many of us skipping over it with indifference.
Jack is a phantom, a story, a lurking presence, a shadow on the wall in our Platonic cave: we fear the wraith but dare not turn our heads to see him. The reality of the murders, as Moore suggests, has been trampled over until they have become an abstraction and Jack a stereotype, a name with which we label modern imitators. We have fed, been sated, and have moved on.
The very nature of Gull's mission helped begin that process of numbing, of desensitisation. He does not realise the irony that the women he guts are not human to him, instead they are mere vessels of flesh on his Illiadic voyage. He is as dead to the sensations of the world around him as the office workers he soundlessly chastises.
A hundred and twenty years on and it is the shock of our own deaths, not those of others, that penetrates our broad screen of indifference. Thousands are slaughtered in civil war, we change the channel. A certain 27-year-old mother-of-two from Bermondsey dies of cancer, requests for screenings soar. 'She was the same age as me,' says a relative. Death brought home: mortality given new life: spectres appear afresh on the cave wall.
Jack may have woken us up for a moment, but in the end he was merely the beginning of the lullaby. Within 15 years, greater horrors were to unfold that would make a clutch of streetwalkers in Whitechapel seem almost insignificant; Gull's Canute-like remonstrance at the dawning of the 20th Century only hastened the tide. His life's end, incarcerated in a dank madhouse as a nurse copulates in his cell, ends with vivid hallucinations of divinity, a slipping effortlessly through time and space. But then, then there is nothing but black, the inky, soulless darkness of a dead eye.
From Hell isn't about Jack the Ripper, it's about the fact that by the time you're dying, it's too late to feel alive
Nerves crackle, pressure builds in the belly: fear settles in, rush of burning adrenaline, stiffening sinew, heightening noise. The body prepares for flight.
In the disconnect of the unfamiliar, shadows gain form: an Englishman in an alien land, transplanted from the British hegemony of comfort to rule-less, unsafe uncertainty. Romania: visceral borderland of civilisation, a superstitious buttress to the dark, dusty, unpredictable East. A deep crescent of blood soaked earth nestling in its lap the burning hot gateway of Constantinople - the edge of the unknown, of the unknowable.
It is the rim of Stoker's unconscious, blood red passion lapping against a shore of steely reserve. Romania: metaphor for repression's limits, a libido of pulsing insatiability against cold reason, science, strength.
Dracula: upon old Bram's foundation sits a towering, ugly edifice: derivation, deviation, degeneration. Moore and Reppion strip it back, return to the source, the terrifying original of letters, diaries, clippings. Reportage. Like coming across a forgotten journal in a dusty bookshelf, the sensation of being with them. The halting, frightened stories of Jonathan and Mina, the hard vengeance of Van Helsing: they weave Vlad's image - stripped of cliche, he returns to his rightful place: a fleeting shadow at the edge of sight. Against the clarity of Harker's face, he is blurred, indistinct, a true spectre.
Returned too is the redacted opening: reinforces the disconnect of time, place, memory. Harker's Transylvania is a head-fuck, a trip, a lusty dream full of dark passions where time has no meaning.
Stark black, white and red cover: adaptation, not reinvention. No need to interfere with Stoker's nightmares, no need to reimagine: deft handling lets his words flow.
They return to the beginning, to the original, to the fevered scratchings of a bored clerk's seething imagination. They return us to the dark place. Bloody, pulsing, unstoppable, unquenchable. Dracula: everything we fear ... about ourselves.
This November marks six years since The Epiphany.
Well, I say that, but does it really class as an epiphany if you don't notice at the time? Kind of like the penny not dropping for Saul until he'd actually *got* to Damascus? No, it probably only qualifies as a 'time-delay dawning revelation', the wisdom of the moment not sinking in until years later.
Also, David Lloyd makes an unlikely heavenly choir, but there you go...
Just a day after my first nephew was born, I'd headed down to London for a comic book convention, girlfriend in tow. She'd gone off to stay with the family, I hung around with a bunch of geeks. Me FTW, thought I.
The con was lightly attended, cosily cocooned in a hotel, and festooned with the usual suspects. I gripped a small plastic folder containing printouts of the work I'd done for the much-missed Solar Wind comic, the award-winning tribute to the adventure comics of the '70s and '80s ("Yesterday's Comic, Today, at Tomorrow's Prices!". Suzie The Sleuth and Roy of the Rangers were hardly going to get me a contract for Marvel, but the con offered the chance to have your work critiqued by a panel that including luminaries such as Lloyd and artist Siku.
By a bizarre stroke of coincidence, I'd recently interviewed con organiser Kev Sutherland when he'd strayed into my patch when I was in local weekly newspapers with his comics roadshow. Sure enough, when I took the stand, Kev explained that I was a newspaper reporter by day.I eased the folder into an overhead projector which showed the room my, quite frankly, amateurish scribblings. I finished. There was silence. Lloyd cleared his throat.
'So why,' he asked, slowly, carefully, 'when you're already a writer, why on Earth do you want to be an artist?'
Boom! That, by the way, is the sound of me being blown out of the water. I didn't know.
I stammered and ummed and ahhhed, eventually coming out with the rather pathetic: 'because I hate my job'.
And it's true, I did. Loathed it with a passion. But that had more to do with the conditions under which I was forced to work, rather than the actual work. What took me aback with such force was that it'd never even considered it. Sure, I knew how to knock together 300 words on the fact Mrs Jones is concerned about dog dirt on the local park, but I'd never even *tried* to write a comic strip...
Tail between legs and with my brain desperately trying to either come to terms with or just forget what had been said, I scurried away and spent the rest of the weekend drinking. Eventually, David's question was quietly filed under 'uncomfortable things to forget' alongside that episode at school with the toilet cubicle...
And, to be fair, things happened that meant my attention went elsewhere - my job was pretty awful and, within a month, the 18-month-long relationship with my girlfriend came to a shuddering, terrible halt. So I had other things to worry about.
It took me five years to finally take the hint. It was pretty painful on the way, full of false starts and the very bitter realisation that the intimate relationship I thought I had with the English language was, in fact, merely an acquaintance.
I'm still not thrilled about having to have a day job, but I'm pumping out words on a regular basis and trying my hand at the other, more creative, writing. I'm probably happier writing now than I've ever been, which is always a good sign.
This in no way suggests that I'm any *good* (the exact opposite being the case) but at least it made me think that perhaps an ability to juggle words, whether learnt or innate, would be a useful tool and something I'd probably enjoy doing more than weeping at my drawing board over my inability to draw like Arthur Adams on a daily basis. Long way to go, looooooooooong way still to go, but at least I've started.
So I guess this is a thanks to David Lloyd. For asking just the right question, even if I didn't listen at the right time.
As for the drawing... well, that's pretty much fallen by the wayside. I still like to draw, but it always was going to be a one-or-the-other kind of decision, when it eventually happened.

Oh, and Siku said he thought I drew Suzie's hair nicely. Which was no bloody help ..


I've recently shaken off the shackles of unpaid crap work, so have more time to devote to other unpaid work ...

Along with everything else, I'm the editor of The End is Nigh - the chronicle of end times, the anthology of Armageddons, the depository of doom, the collection of catastrophe, the encyclopedia of eschatology ... the official magazine of the apocalypse! Everything you wanted to know about the end of the world but were afraid to ask, The End is Nigh includes features, interviews, comic strips and jokes about everyone's favourite Armageddon.

You can still download a pdf version of issue two, which includes my interview with Alan Moore, by visiting the website - you can also buy one of the last few remaining copies of issue three.

And, after a hiatus of far-too-long, issue four should be arriving as a POD or straight download this summer ... assuming it's not too late by then.

It's a bit gash and you can hear the edits coming a mile off, but I'm proud to present the VERY FIRST MolchCast! This one includes a couple of snippets from my interview with the fantastic artist, Colin Wilson - the full feature is in the current edition of the Judge Dredd Megazine (issue 284).

Kindly click hither (cuz I can't get it to embed).