Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Mega Robo Bros LIVE!

This weekend saw the third annual Phoenix Children's Comics Festival - or #PHOENIXFEST15, to hashtag it all up in here - at the Story Museum in Oxford, and an amazing fun time it was too. I was there on the Saturday and it was just stunning to be surrounded by such enthusiasm, creativity and sheer bursting-at-the-seams excitement for comics. And for OUR comics! Honestly, it's hard to put into words how great it was to see.

ANYWAY! As is my usual form, I was far too busy drawing robots for people to remember to take any photos of it all. But fortunately, some of my robots came to life and came along, so I could take photos of them! Look who I bumped into:


Which, obviously, rather completely made my day. And allowed us to quickly create the following:

MEGA ROBO BROS LIVE!





You'll notice that the kid who came cosplaying as Freddy was also SIMULTANEOUSLY COSPLAYING AS EVIL EMPEROR PENGUIN, and as such holds a pretty solid claim to being the most awesome person in the country.

Here for good measure is the Alex version:






Just so much fun. I made those panels last week, volunteering on a Sunday and being filled with a  nagging worry that I really should have just taken a much-needed day off instead. I really hoped they would be a fun little bonus thing for kids and parents at the festival, and anyway, these pictures alone make it all pretty much worthwhile from my perspective. Thanks so much, Mega Robo Family!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Comics for Kids: A Big Awesome List Thereof



Regular readers of this blog will know I've talked a lot here about the importance of comics for kids, the role they can play in developing literacy skills and inspiring a love of reading and, y'know, all that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I've also talked a lot about how difficult it can be for parents, educators, and indeed kids themselves to know where to start with comics; to find exciting and age-appropriate titles. I've attempted to recommend a few titles from time to time, with my apparently now-annual series of posts Comics For 6-Year-Olds and Comics For 7-Year-Olds (coming this year! Comic-For-8-Year Olds! I guess?), but I'm well aware how brief and incomplete they are. I can't begin to tell you the number of times over the last few years that I've been off doing workshops, talking to teachers and librarians who're interested in using comics but need some pointers where to start, and wished I had just a big LIST to give them. A Big List Of Awesome Comics For Kids.

Well, the good news is, someone made that list! That someone(s) being Melanie McGilloway and Zoe Toft of the Federation of Children's Book Groups, who have put together a new booklist entitled 'Inside The Box: A Selection of Comics And Graphic Novels For All Ages', which... well, which is basically the thing I've been wishing existed for the last five or so years. To quote Melanie and Zoe's introduction:

"The Federation's primary aim is to encourage reading for pleasure and we are sure the books and magazines on this list will do just that. Although comics and graphic novels are sometimes resisted by (adult) gatekeepers, we are great believers in this format and hope that this list shows comics are not just for boys or reluctant readers but for anyone who enjoys great storytelling."

And it really is an impressive list - wide-ranging and thoughtfully curated, with an eminently useful focus on titles that are in print and widely available in the UK. Again, making it easy for teachers, librarians, parents and kids, which I think is so important.

(In the interests of FULL DISCLOSURE I should mention that I was consulted during the making of the list, but I really barely helped at all - I'm quite sure Melanie and Zoe were already familiar with all the titles I suggested, and a whole lot more besides. There's stuff in here that I'd never heard of previously, and which I'm already looking forward to checking out.)

Any teachers, librarians, or just anyone with an interest who'd like to get hold of the booklist, please contact the Federation to request copies - just e-mail info@fcbg.org.uk with your name and address. More info on the FCBG's blog, here. I personally have a thick wedge of copies that I shall be liberally strewing in my wake pretty much wherever I go from now on. Thanks again, Zoe and Melanie!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Pirate Dinosaur Roadshow!



I'm going to be at lots of book festivals and comics events and such over the next few months, so if you would like to come and say hello and get me to draw pictures of dinosaurs for you: you have MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO DO SO! I've just updated the 'Upcoming Events' section of my website with details of some, and there's a load more to be announced soon, I just wanted to draw your attention to a couple in particular here:

Pirates of Pangaea Day at Gosh Comics, London - 16 May! 

My co-pirate Daniel Hartwell and myself will be at Gosh Comics on Saturday 16 May from 1-3 PM, drawing with kids and running competitions and painting giant dinosaurs in the window and all sorts of fun things like that. If you are about and in London and have kids, or just really like dinosaurs, please come along, and indeed spread the word!

Phoenix Comic Festival, Oxford, 2-3 May!

It's the third year of the phenomenally good fun Phoenix Festival at the Story Museum - tickets are going super fast so if you have any young Phoenix fans in the family, BOOK NOW! It's a fantastic day - a whole weekend in fact, this year, they're extending it - and I really can't overstate how fun and positive and exciting an event it is for young comics readers (and creators). I'm doing workshops on the Saturday, and a whole bunch of amazing cartoonists are there over the whole weekend.

If you can't make it along to those, or indeed any of the other events I'll be at this year, there is still a way to get me to draw on your books! I'm offering through my website a special Custom Dinosaur edition of Pirates of Pangaea, in which I will happily sketch for you the following proposition:

ANY CHARACTER (living, dead or fictional), riding ANY DINOSAUR.

I hope you will take me up on this as, frankly, they are super fun to do and I love drawing them. Here are a few examples:


Alex and Freddy on a Chronosaurus (?)


Gandalf on a Stegosaurus

Batman on a Triceratops 

A Pirate on A Dinosaur (the 'default setting') 

Upsy Daisy on a Hadrosaur

Astronaut on a Velociraptor

You get the idea. You can order your very own Custom Dinosaur at from my web shop at: http://neillcameron.bigcartel.com/ 

Challenges welcome!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Children's Comics Library: a call for donations!


I've technically come to the end of my residency at The Story Museum in Oxford, but I seem to be still hanging around the place a lot, between my weekly Comics Club there and a few exciting bits and pieces I've got planned before the Phoenix Children's Comics Festival in May. One thing we've talked about is putting together a bit of a permanent reading library of children's comics, which I think would be an absolutely fantastic thing - a collection of great comics from all over the world and all over the years that kids can just sit and peruse and read and get lost in.

So: what we need is... well, comics. ALL child-friendly comics from all nations and eras are enormously welcome, but in the first instance what I'm really after is a range of British weekly comics of the 1970s / 80s. Not necessarily long runs of anything, just a couple of Mistys here, a couple of Victors there, a few Whizzer and Chipses in between. One of the upcoming activities I've got planned for Comics Club is all about anthologies, and it'd be really great to show kids something of the range of material, of genres and subject matters, that used to be available. I've got a bunch of early 2000ADs that I'll be donating myself, and it'd be great to have a load of other old comics to keep them company.

(Please note: comics in this library would not be preserved in mylar in pristine condition. They would be read, and no doubt ultimately destroyed, by children. But isn't that the point?)

If you do have any comics you'd like to donate to the museum, the best thing to do in the first instance would be to contact either me - on twitter or in a comment here - or the Story Museum directly, and then we can start to liase about details. Please spread the word, and thank you in advance!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Writing Comics: Tamsin and the Deep


Tamsin and the Deep (c) 2015 Neill Cameron and Kate Brown, OBVS


I'm giving a couple of talks on Writing Comics here and there these days, and I thought I'd put some of my resources up here for reference, so: for anyone interested in the process of How To Write Comics - or How I Write Comics, anyway, which is not necessarily the same thing - here you go. As an example we'll be taking the first episode of Tamsin and The Deep, a strip I write for the magnificently talented artist Kate Brown, which is published in The Phoenix.

First off, the story is outlined in broad strokes in a Series Outline which we'll discuss and get feedback from our editors on. The way it works on the Phoenix you'll generally have a story commissioned for a given number of episodes, and number of pages per episode, so writing an outline like this is a very useful way of getting the whole story straight and figuring out the overall shape of the thing before you fire into making it. Here's the first page of my outline for Tamsin, covering the first episode:

TAMSIN AND THE DEEP

SERIES OUTLINE

By Neill Cameron(4 ‘chapters’ / seasons, of 5 episodes each. 20 episodes total.)
 CHAPTER ONE EPISODE ONE

A cold November morning on a windy beach in Cornwall. It is largely deserted - all the holidaymakers are long gone for the year. The only people around are three local boys, surfing - impervious or steeled to the cold in their drysuits - and a young girl, who sits on the beach, grumpily watching them.

The girl, Tamsin, argues with one of the boys - her older brother, Morgan.

"You were supposed to be teaching me. You promised Mum!"

"Alright, alright! In a minute…"

Morgan is too busy having fun with his Idiot Friends, and Tamsin is abandoned on the beach. Grumpily, she picks up her bodyboard and sets off to have a go herself, some way off, muttering as she goes about Stupid Morgan and his Stupid Idiot Friends.
Morgan and his friends return to shore, notice that she's gone. They see her getting up onto her board, some distance off. She's outside the flags, off a dangerous stretch of coastline. As they yell and wave their hands to get her attention, Tamsin catches a big wave...

...and wipes out. She is rolled around under the surf, managing to almost get back to the surface before being pulled down by a powerful undertow. The cord connecting her to her board snaps. She is dragged downwards, away from the sun and down, down into the dark.

Morgan and his friends see her board bobbing around uselessly on the surface, and Morgan starts to scream helplessly.

"Tamsin! TAMSIN!"

As Tamsin struggles desperately beneath the waves, she manages to turn, and sees...

Arms gripping her legs, pulling her down. And just visible through the darkness, a terrible, beautiful, utterly alien face.

TO BE CONTINUED…  


That was pretty much one side of A4 for one episode. With something like Mega Robo Bros, where I'm writing for myself as an artist and I've been doing it for a while, the outline might be a lot shorter, but as this was an all-new strip and characters it goes into quite a lot of detail.

Once the outline have been discussed, amended, edited and approved, we proceed to scripting. On Tamsin I'm writing full scripts for Kate, whereas on Mega Robo Bros I'll pretty much jump straight from the outline into thumbnailing. Anyway, here's the full first episode of Tamsin, in script form:


 TAMSIN AND THE DEEP


By Neill Cameron


EPISODE ONE

Page One

1.1: Small shot showing waves.

VOICE (o/p): Morgan!

TITLE & CREDITS:



TAMSIN AND THE DEEP


By Neill Cameron & Kate Brown


Episode 1

1.2: Big shot of Porthtowan beach. It is late November, the skies are slate grey and the sea dark, but that has not put off a small group of three teenagers: the dark-haired MORGAN and his idiot friends TRAVIS and KYLE, who are paddling their surfboards out into the waves. On the sands sits a ten-year-old girl, TAMSIN. Beside her are some bags and surfing-gear, left on the sands, and a couple of bodyboards. A large golden retriever, PENGERSEK, runs happily around on the sands behind her, chasing a ball. She is calling out to the group of boys on their surfboards.

 TAMSIN: Morgaaan!

 MORGAN: What IS it, Tamsin?

1.3: full-figure shot of Tamsin, so we get a proper look at her. She wears wetsuit and flippers; she is all kitted up with nowhere to do. She sits on her bodyboard, lain flat on the sand. Behind her, Pengersek runs around happily, chasing a ball.

TAMSIN: You’re supposed to be teaching me!

TAMSIN: You promised MUM!

1.4: Shot from out in the sea; Morgan and one of his idiot friends (Kyle, the loudmouth)

MORGAN: I will! In a bit, okay?

KYLE: Dude, your sister is annoying. Do you really have to babysit her?

1.5: Close in on Tamsin, pulling a sulky face.

MORGAN (small, distant): Ugh, tell me about it…

TAMSIN: JERKS.



Page Two

2.1: Medium shot. Her face set in determination, Tamsin picks up her bodyboard and strides off to panel right.

TAMSIN: Who needs him!

2.2: Arial shot, Tamsin strides along the beach, a trail of footprints behind her. Pengersek runs after her, yapping.

PENGERSEK: YAP YAP YAP!

TAMSIN: Don’t worry, Pengersek. Of course I’ll be careful.

2.3: Long shot of Tamsin striding out into the surf. In the distance we can see Morgan and his friends bobbing around on the surf, waiting for a big wave.

TAMSIN: After all, if those morons can do it…

2.4: Tamsin paddles out, lying flat on her board now.

TAMSIN: …how hard can it be, right?

2.5: Tamsin is now out in the sea, facing back towards the beach. She looks over her shoulder, out to sea.

TAMSIN: Okay. So now I just wait for a big wave, right?

2.6: Shot from Tamsin’s POV of a wave approaching, in the distance.

SFX: SHHHWWWW

2.7: Small shot of Tamsin, looking slightly worried.

TAMSIN:  ...that is a big wave.

2.8: similar shot to 2.6; the wave is much closer now, white foam breaking on the top of it.

SFX: SHHHHWWWWW

2.9: Tamsin grips her board and looks up at the wave as it curls over her.

TAMSIN: Whooooaaaa!


Page Three


3.1: Large panel: Tamsin is doing it; riding the wave, speeding across the front of it on her boadyboard. She looks delighted. Sun glints on the waves.

TAMSIN: Ha ha ha ha ha! I’m doing it!

TAMSIN: EAT IT, Morgan!

3.2: Small panel of Morgan, some distance off; looking round. Possibly we can see Travis in shot, also looking off to the same point.

MORGAN: Huh?



TRAVIS: What’s she doing? She’s too far out!

3.2: Close in on Tamsin; she looks worried now; struggling to hold onto the board as the wave bears down on top of her.

SFX: SHHHHHHHWWWWWW

TAMSIN: Ummmm…..

TAMSIN: Hold on…

3.3: Another large-ish panel; Tamsin WIPES OUT, the wave crashing down over her – just a limb or a tip of board being visible beneath the foam.

TAMSIN: waa---

SFX: SHHWWWWFFFF!!!

3.4: Wide shot of the beach; Off to the left we see Morgan surfing along, looking over to where Tamsin has disappeared beneath the water. Pengersek is splashing into the surf at the edge of the beach, barking furiously towards that same point.

MORGAN: Tamsin -?

PENGERSEK: RUFF RUFF RUFF RUFF!!

3.6-3.9: Kate, I’d like to leave the precise panelling of this up to you, but the last third of this page should essentially be a sequence of Tamsin rolling around under the water in the undertow. The sequence of ‘events’, such as there is one, is –
Tamsin is pulled down by the undertow. She flails wildly, uselessly.
The cord tying Tamsin to her board snaps free, the board shoots pu and away to the surface…
…Tamsin manages to recover her bearings enough to at least see which way the surface is, and reaches for it…
…only to feel something pulling her down. She looks around…
…setting up the big page-turn reveal for p4. But the precise sequence of events is less important here than the overall sensation – of panic, or chaotic turbulence, or rolling waves and darkness and impending drowning.
HAVE FUN WITH THAT.


Page Four

4.1: BIG panel. Still underwater, we see  Tamsin being pulled down into the darkness by a HAND that grips her ankle. Between the darkness and the rolling waves and perhaps some seaweed it is hard to make out WHAT, exactly, it is. But we see a hand; a dark, greeny-blue hand. It grips Tamsin tightly by the ankle as she twists her body round in panic, looking down at it.

4.2: Close in on Tamsin’s face, looking down in panicked horror amongst the swirl of air bubbles.

4.3: Reverse-angle shot; Close in on an EERIE INHUMAN FACE looking up at her; female but fishlike; large black merciless eyes. Again, shrouded in darkness and seaweed and churning surf, but it is definitely a face.

4.4: Morgan and friends running along the beach, dog barking…
Back on the surface, a wide-angled shot of Morgan, running through the surf in panic, Pengersek at his side. Travis and Kyle are bringing up the rear, ineffectually. Morgan’s face is absolutely wild with terror.

MORGAN: TAMSIN!

4.5: Shot from Morgan’s POV of Tamsin’s bodyboard washing up in surf; its cord trailing uselessly behind it, attached to nothing.

MORGAN: (o/p): TAMSIN!!

TO BE CONTINUED…


Couple of points:


  • You'll note a couple of lines in red there: I think they were added in based on editorial feedback on the first draft; if memory serves, we just wanted to add a bit of clarity as to where Tamsin was relative to the boys, and hint that she was somewhere she shouldn't be.
  • On the third page there's a section where instead of giving precise panel-by-panel script description, I've just described the general effect we're going for and left it up to Kate to make those decisions. When you are working with an artist and storyteller as talented as Kate, this is often a good idea.


You can currently read the whole of Tamsin and the Deep chapter one over on Movella's Project Remix site - and maybe then have a go at creating your own comics, too. Do go have a look, and see for yourself the amazingly beautiful comic that Kate created out of all these boring old words.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Pirates of Pangaea: Book One


The Pirates of Pangaea - a graphic novel concerning pirates, dinosaurs, and adventures thereupon by Daniel Hartwell and myself - was published recently, and it occurred to me that I possibly ought to mention this fact on my blog. The book collects the first big story arc from the now rather hard-to-find issues 0-20 of The Phoenix, along with lots of special new bits and pieces and cool fun stuff like maps and faux 18th-century dinosaur guidebook pages and that kind of thing. It was a huge amount of fun to make and if you know any kids who like comics or dinosaurs or pirates or ALL OF THOSE THINGS I hope you'll consider grabbing them a copy. We've been getting some lovely reviews, which I am now going to proceed to shamelessly share with you...

"The Pirates of Pangaea is absolutely the best comic strip being published for children in the UK, possibly the world. 10/10” -Starburst Magazine 
"Pirates! Dinosaurs! Every bit as wonderful together as you expect to be, every bit as brilliant as you wanted it to be." Forbidden Planet
"Superbly engaging and utterly enthralling, this astounding all-action romp is a riotous delight of astonishing adventure." - Now Read This! 

...but, as ever with comics, there's not a lot of money for advertising on the sides of buses and so forth (which is a shame because OH how I would love to see dinoships on the sides of buses) and we really do rely on word of mouth, so please... say words with your mouth? Thank you!

You can see a bunch of art from the book and find out all about it over on my website, at www.neillcameron.com/pangaea, or read a preview on my tumblr. And look, you can now buy from those nice people at the Phoenix an exciting BUNDLE containing all three of my books (that's Pirates as well as Mo-Bot High and How To Make Awesome Comics) for a cut-down bargain price. I am mostly just excited to have somehow done enough books to constitute a bundle.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Saturday Morning Comics Club!

(Photo courtesy The Story Museum)

I'm trying an Exciting New Venture in 2015, running a Saturday Morning Comics Club at the Story Museum in Oxford! It's for kids aged 8-12, and every week we'll be reading comics...

(Like THESE)

...talking about comics, learning about comics, and most importantly MAKING LOTS OF AWESOME COMICS!


Like this one! Or maybe EVEN AWESOMER. Who can say?

The goal is to have produced a brand-new anthology comic in time for the Phoenix Children's Comic Festival in May, but I dare say that'll just be the start of it!



I'm also going to be using the same 'curriculum' and ideas to run a weekly Comics Club on a volunteer basis as an afterschool thing at our local primary. I bang on a lot, encouraging parents and teachers and librarians to use comics in their schools as a great way of boosting literacy and encouraging creativity and having FUN, and I figured it was time to put my money where my mouth is and get involved myself. I'll be blogging about the experience and lessons learned and ideas it prompts as we go along here, in the hopes of maybe encouraging other parents / cartoonists / foolhardy souls to have a go themselves.

Anyway, the Story Museum Comics Club starts with a taster session this Saturday (14th Feb), 11-12:30 am. You can find full details and book a place on the Story Museum website, here:

...and then the main event starts in proper on 28th Feb and then every week thereafter. If you'd like more information please e-mail tickets@thestorymuseum.org.uk or phone 01865 790050 to speak to the lovely people at the museum with any questions you may have.

I am mildly terrified but I think it's going to be lots of fun. If you do know any families in the Oxford area who might be interested, please do spread the word!

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