Thursday, 28 April 2011

G is for... Giant Robots Guarding over Geisha in Gion

G is for... Giant Robots Guarding over Geisha in Gion

Here is this week's* entry in the A-Z of Awesome Japan, a series of drawings I am doing on this blog to celebrate stuff that is awesome about Japan, and to help raise a little money for the ongoing disaster relief efforts in that country. (You can sponsor me here.)

  • Giant Robots are, well, it's rather self-explanatory, isn't it? Needless to say, I quite like Giant Robots.
  • Geisha are, well, it's rather complicated, isn't it? Entertainers? Performers? Hostesses? Go ask Wikipedia.
  • Gion is an inordinately beautiful and atmospheric historic neighbourhood of Kyoto, famed for its long-standing associations as a Geisha district.
* yes, it's weekly rather than daily now. Been horribly busy, sorry. I am a Struggling Artist, remember, and have a fairly packed and punishing schedule of Struggling to get through each day. Also, I wanted to take a little more time over these pictures, so that they represented work I'm proud of rather than being just rushed, hurried and rather sucky. If I have any aspirations as an artist, I guess they could be summed up as "to produce work which is not sucky". Yes, I DARE TO DREAM.

More next week! And every week for like another five months, geez.

EXTRA FUN FOR PROCESS NERDS! Here is the process:

G composite

Thursday, 21 April 2011

F is for... Foxes Feasting on Fukujinzuke (near Mt. Fuji)


Here is today's - or rather, this week's, sorry - entry in the A-Z of Awesome Japan!

  • Foxes are a popular figure in Japanese mythology; principally the magical shape-shifting fox Kitsune, a messenger of the Shinto deity Oinari.
  • Fukujinzuke is a mixture of pickled sweetened vegetables - aubergine, daikon, cucumber, radish and such - whcih is popular as an accompaniment to curries and other dishes. It is very possibly my favourite single thing to eat in the whole world, and every time all the shops in Oxford run out of it (which is distressingly often), I want to CRY.
  • Mount Fuji is a big ol' mountain.
Another entry in the A-Z coming after Easter. You can if you wish please sponsor me to carry on doing these - all donations go to the Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Fund and are hugely appreciated.

Happy Easter, everybody!

Monday, 11 April 2011

The 3 Ages of Nerd, and the Targeting of Audiences

3AgesofNerd 600px

I was at Kapow this weekend, and the above is a comic that popped into my head while I was there. I wasn't at all sure about the event; apart from the preposterous, retrogressive and bordering-on-misogynistic No Female Guests policy*, I just wasn't at all sure it would be a very Mo-Bot-friendly crowd. Essentially, my stuff seems to go over well with people in categories (1) and (3) above, but it seemed like Kapow would be attended overwhelmingly by Category (2) people, and I worried it would not have enough swearing, dismemberment and queasily inappropriate overtones of sexual violence for their tastes.**

But you know what, it went really well. I met lots of lovely, interesting people there, and sold books to many of them. Several people came up and bought a copy saying something along the lines of "I know I'm not the target audience for this, but...". And then I came home from the convention to read this really lovely review of the book by Rol Hirst, which begins with the line: "I am not the target market for this book."

So I just wanted to say, to anyone who's reading this but maybe thinks they're not the target audience for this book: you know what? You are the target audience for this book. This book is targeted at People Who Like Things That Are Awesome. Do you like things that are awesome? Then you are the target audience for this book.

Cover colours TARGET

In a way the whole phrase 'target audience' is misleading, as it implies I had any idea of such a thing when I was writing it, and sadly I'm nowhere near that organised. If I had any kind of target it was myself as a kid; young Neill growing up in suburban Oxford, bored and living on the weekly bursts of excitement that a Saturday morning of comics and cartoons would bring. But you know what else Young Neill loved, at around that time? Douglas Adams, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Star Wars...

I'm not trying to compare Mo-Bot High to those works, that would be insane. But I'm just trying to make clear that in writing this book for kids, I was in no way trying to 'write down', to 'write simple', or anything like that. I was trying to write the best, funniest, most exciting story I was capable of writing. Just, y'know, with less F-bombs than maybe I was used to throwing around. And you know what? Having to be funny without being able to drop the F-bomb just means having to be more funny.

I'm going to quote from that review I mentioned earlier because, at the risk of sounding self-aggrandising, it made a bunch of points that I really do agree with.

Mo-Bot High is tons of colourful fun for readers of all ages, but I'd recommend it particularly if you're looking for a comic to interest your own kids, young nephews, nieces etc. We do need to encourage the next generation of comic readers if the medium is going to survive beyond ourselves...
So to sum up: dudes. Seriously. Go buy my book.

* Before anyone sues me, I'm aware this wasn't an actual Policy. As far as I know. Come on, Melinda Gebbie was there and everything.
** I'm joking of course! I know not all modern superhero comics are like that. Um.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

E is for... Extremely well-Educated Edamame

E is for... Extremely well-Educated Edamame

Here is today's entry in the A-Z of Awesome Japan, a sponsored charity drawathon I will be doing all month of Things About Japan, That Are Awesome! Check out the full set so far on Flickr!

  • Edamame are soy beans, generally eaten simply boiled or steamed, and served in the pod, sprinkled with rock salt. They are the BEST.
  • Cicero was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.
So, some NEWS. This is a bit of a swerve, I know, but I'm going to be changing the way I do the A-Z. From now on will not be drawing any more copyrighted characters (that I did not create, anyway) as part of this kind of thing. I can't really go into the details of why, I'm afraid. Something crappy happened this week, and it left me with a very bad taste in my mouth, a massive dose of paranioa about blogging that kind of thing, and pretty much zero enthusiasm for it. And I'm afraid that's really all I can say about that.

Apologies to anyone who feels put out by this change, and in particular to @RusDady, whose excellent and highly entertaining suggestion for E - "Evangelion-01 Eating an Enchilada on an Elephant" I was very much looking forward to drawing.

I WILL however be carrying on with the A-Z, as lots of you have been awesome enough to sponsor me already. And you know what, I'm going to make it EVEN MORE AWESOME. I see it as a kind of "the best revenge is living well" response to the events of this week. After giving it some thought, I'm actually really excited to carry on; from hereon in I'm going to be seeing it more as me making my own personal love letter to all the things I adore about Japan, and I really don't think I should have any trouble finding subjects for the rest of the alphabet.

Readers are still welcome to chip in suggestions, but please note the 'no copyrighted characters' rule. As a rule of thumb: Ninjas= YES, Naruto=NO. Okay?

I will continue to update the A-Z as often as possible - it's not going to be every single day now, but I'll try and keep it at 2-3 times a week (more where possible). Also, as and when I get a chance I'll be going back through and redoing the drawings for A-D with new versions to fit the new rules. Because I didn't have enough to be getting on with.

Deep breaths.

Anyway! You are of course you are still very welcome to sponsor me! All donations go to the Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Fund and are hugely appreciated - I keep wishing I was richer / famouser and could do more to help, but this is all I can think of to do, so this is what I am going to keep on doing.

I think that's everything. Thank you for your patience.


KAPOW flyer

Hey - it's a bit last-minute I know, but I'm going to be at Kapow! Comic Con! in London this weekend - selling copies of Mo-Bot High, doing sketches, and hanging out with some nice comics-y people.

That's the idea, anyway. I'm slightly terrified about the event; worried I'm going to be beaten up by a crowd of sneering 'Kick-Ass' cosplayers. So if you're there, and are not a randomly violent sneering 'Kick-Ass' cosplayer, please come along and say hello! And if you ARE a randomly violent sneering 'Kick-Ass' cosplayer, come over and say hello anyway. Just please don't punch me.

Joining me at my table will be my good comics buddies Jason Cobley (on the Saturday) and Daniel Hartwell (on the Sunday). So I can always hide behind them I suppose. We'll be at table 95 - and I quote: "below where the Tardis and Darleks (sic) are on the floor plan".


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

D is for... Digimon Ditching Doraemon


Here is today's frankly heartbreaking entry in the A-Z of Awesome Japan! Poor Doraemon! But to be fair, that guy is kind of a drag.

Today's picture was suggested by leeatard, many thanks! I'm drawing one of these every day, for every letter in the alphabet, and I'd very much appreciate it if you'd sponsor me in this effort. All proceeds go to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

No annotations today, sorry. Something kind of crappy happened to me today (halfway through drawing this picture), and I can't quite find it in me to try and make with the funny. I might need to take a day off from doing these pictures tomorrow, sorry.

Monday, 4 April 2011

C is for... Cute Cyborgs, Crying

C is for... Cute Cyborgs Crying

Here is today's adorable entry in the A-Z of Awesome Japan! I'm drawing one of these every day, for every letter in the alphabet, and I'd very much appreciate it if you'd sponsor me in this effort. It's for rather a good cause.

Today's entry was a bit of a combination of suggestions from, if memory serves, Deirdre Ruane and K. D. Bryan - thanks chaps! To contribute an idea for future entries in the A-Z, please fire suggestions at me via Twitter, Facebook or right here in the comments on this blog.

Today's annotations: the crying cyborgs in question are, clockwise from top:

  • 8-Man, a cyborg superhero created in 1963 by Kazumasa Hirai and manga artist Jiro Kuwata (who, hey, was also the artist on the 1960's Batman manga we touched on in Friday's entry). "He is considered Japan's earliest cyborg superhero".
  • Motoko Kusanagi, the lead character in the anime series Ghost in the Shell, based on Matsumune Shirow's manga. She is a cyborg, right?
  • Tetsuo, the antagonist (or if you look at it another way, the protagonist) from Katsuhiro Otomo's superlative-exhausting manga series Akira. Which is still the best-looking comic anyone anywhere has ever drawn, ever, and if you disagree I've got a book sat here on my desk that proves how terribly wrong you are. I can't actually remember if Tetuso was technically a cyborg, but he has a very cyborg-looking arm. So that's good enough for me.
C is also for Chibi, which is what this drawing is.

Another entry tomorrow! And EVERY DAY THIS WEEK, good lord.

Friday, 1 April 2011

B is for... Blanka and Batman Blissfully Bicycling through Beautiful Blossoms

B is for... Blanka and Batman Blissfully Bicycling through Beautiful Blossoms

Here is today's picture in the A-Z of Awesome Japan!
  • Blanka is a character from Capcom's popular videogame fighting series Street Fighter.
  • Batman is a masked vigilante crimefighter character created by Bob Kane and published by DC Comics. In 1966, he was the star of a series of manga produced by Jiro Kuwata to tie in with the launch of the Adam West Batman TV series. You can read more about that here. And also here.
Today's picture was a combination of a couple of suggestions from KDBryan on twitter. Only I threw in Batman. Because I wanted to draw Batman. I hope KDBryan does not have a problem with this.

(I think Batman is my yardstick for including western characters in this A-Z; where a character has appeared in a Japanese-orginated version, where they are are sufficiently popular in Japan or generally seem to be part of the Japanese pop-cultural universe, then they are fair game for inclusion. I realise this is not very precise, and I am by no means an authority on these things, but it seems like a good rule of thumb to me.)

'C's picture coming on Monday! If you would like to suggest a topic for future letters, you can do so via Facebook, Twitter, or right here in the comments on this blog. And you can of course sponsor me at my JustGiving page - all proceeds to the Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Fund.