Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Pirates of Pangaea: GHOSTS OF MATHRAK CHU

Very excited to be able to share this little teaser image for the impending return of The Pirates of Pangaea! Really excited about this one, it's been ridiculously fun and challenging to draw, due to the even-higher-than-usual levels of patented Daniel Hartwell Craziness. You see, the thing about this one is... but no! I HAVE SAID TOO MUCH ALREADY.

Anyway, episode one will be popping up in just three short weeks in your weekly Phoenix. (You are all subscribers already, right? If not: Get On That. Or available from these fine vendors.)

Brace yourselves.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Comics in the Classroom

Me, teaching comics, in a classroom. A classroom at the brilliant Teddington School, to be specific. I look a bit confused, don't I? Don't worry, I totally knew what I was talking about. Probably.

 I did a Q&A interview with Dr Matt Finch recently which ended up turning into a guest post over on his excellent blog Books and Adventures, where he's been recently running a series of great posts on Comics and Education. (I particularly enjoyed a couple of recent posts on engaging female students with comics.) I talk a bit about some what I see as the fantastic and diverse benefits of using comics in schools; both as a powerful way of getting kids reading but also as a spur to creativity, and visual literacy, and all kinds of fun things. (And it's not just me, by any means: other posts today on the potential of using comics in schools from such luminaries as Michael Rosen and comics artist and educator par excellence Kev F Sutherland!) 

Anyway, you can read my thoughts over here.

I'll reproduce here for posterity one bit, which was a brief recommended reading list I came up with of Graphic Novels For Children:

The DFC Library is a great collection of new original graphic novels for children (and discerning grown-ups)
  • MeZolith by Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank
  • Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton
  • The Spider Moon by Kate Brown
  • Monkey Nuts by The Etherington Brothers
  • Vern & Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre
  • Super Animal Adventure Squad by James Turner
  • The Boss by John & Patrice Aggs
  • Baggage by The Etherington Brothers
and of course, last but not least…
  • Mo-Bot High by Neill Cameron
Beyond that, here a few further suggestions: this is a subjective list of both obvious, all-time classic series and a few personal favourites:
  • Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  • Asterix by RenĂ© Goscinny & Albert Uderzo
  • Tintin by HergĂ©
  • Bone by Jeff Smith
  • The Rainbow Orchid by Garen Ewing
  • Gum Girl by Andi Watson
And for the slightly older kids…
  • Spider-Man (hearts) Mary Jane by Sean McKeever & Takeshi Miyazawa
  • Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona
  • Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Get those in, and there's any school library off to a great start. I'm aware how partial and incomplete that list is, of course, and I'd really welcome any further suggestions - it's something I get asked about a lot by teachers and librarians, and I'd like to have a good comprehensive reading list I can pass on to people in future. Please pass on your own suggestion for things I've missed, either in comments here or fire 'em at me on twitter - I'm @neillcameron.

One thing that list brings me onto is this great point, raised by Richard Bruton on the Forbidden Planet blog. US Publisher Scholastic have a fantastic line of children's graphic novels, including the colour collections of the aforementioned Bone by Jeff Smith and the hugely-acclaimed Smile by Raina Telgemeier, which for some reason Scholastic UK seem to have no intention of publishing UK editions for. In their response to Richard's enquiry they mention that at present there is not a huge market for children's graphic novels in the UK. Whilst I'm not about to dispute that - believe me, I'm not about to dispute that - I'd argue that there is an enormous potential market, and it's exactly by publishing brilliant works like Bone and Smile that you go about converting that potential market into an actual one. If like Richard (and me) you'd love to see these great books launched in the UK, why not drop Scolastic a line -, or on twitter at @Scholasticuk using the hashtag #GraphixForScholasticUK?

While I'm on the subject, another thing that I think would go rather nicely in any school library would be a school subscription (or two or three) to the Beano, the Dandy and of course The Phoenix

(I just renewed my son's subscription to the Phoenix for another six months. Admittedly I may be slightly biased here but I really do think it's just an absolutely brilliant comic. The latest issue (cover prictured above) - which I'm barely in, so feel I'm morally okay to enthuse about here - really was just a fantastic read all round; I mean, it's always good, but this issue I felt was stand-out fantastic; in part due to the return of James Turner's hilarious Star Cat, in part due to a very funny and genuinely beautiful instalment of Gary's Garden from Gary Northfield, and in part because Adam Murphy's Corpse Talk this week featured the reanimated corpse of Jane Austen, one of my favourite humans to have ever walked the planet.)

Kids need great comics! That is all.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

How To Make (Awesome) Monsters

 Hello! Just a quick reminder following on from yesterday's Pointers On How To Draw Comics and Such that the last couple of week's Art Monkey Activity Sheets are up now on the Phoenix website as free PDF downloads. Along, indeed with ALL the previous ones! Perfect for a rainy afternoon of monster-themed comics-makin'. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

How To Draw Comics REAL GOOD LIKE


Sample page from The Pirates of Pangaea, (c) 2012 by Daniel Hartwell & Neill Cameron.
Published in The Phoenix issue 11 - 

I've done a few comics workshops lately for older students (GCSE-level) in which I've tried to focus a bit more on the specifics and mechanics of drawing than my usual "Hey Let's All Just Make Up Some Silly Nonsense and Have Fun" approach. (Not that there's anything wrong with Making Up Some Silly Nonsense and Having Fun, I hasten to add.) Anyway, I've also recently had a mini-spate of people asking for advice on drawing comics. There are some really great resources out there which I talk about in my workshops, so I thought for ease and convenience I'd link to them all here. Prepare yourselves... for the DROPPING of KNOWLEDGE.

Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work: a sort of 'cheat sheet' of effective panel layouts from the legendary EC Cartoonist. I highly recommend studying these and indeed just nicking them and using them in your comics for exciting and effective compositions. These are available all over the internet, here's a page that gives background on it and has several hi-res versions of the file:

The Disney Comics Artist's Toolkit: another cheat sheet of sorts; this one's a seven-page long kind of complete comics artists training manual created as an internal presentation at Disney in the 1970's by comic artist Carson Van Osten. It's invaluable, and remarkable, and covers everything from perspective and staging to panel layout and figure construction - here's a link that gives some background and has good-quality scans:

Figure Drawing For All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis. Probably the best work on drawing the human figure I've ever encountered, an absolute gold-mine of a resource. Available from all good bookshops (and indeed Amazon) or as a free PDF download here:

Those three links are literally the things I have printed out and taped up over my drawing board. Can't recommend them highly enough. FURTHER READING: some (highly) recommended books on the subject of making comics. Again, available from all good bookshops.

  • Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
  • Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner
  • How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way by Stan Lee & John Romita
  • Writing for Comics by Alan Moore

...and of course, last but not least there's my own How To Make (Awesome) Comics, appearing every week in the Phoenix! And don't forget, we put all the drawing exercises up as downloadable worksheets at every week, too. For FREE! Yes I know, it is incredibly generous of us.

Anyway, hope all that is of some use to someone. Putting these links together was prompted by a recent visit to Teddington School, where I had a brilliant day doing workshops. One session was with a couple of Graphics classes who seemed weirdly knowledgeable about me and my work; check out what they had been doing a project on...

Which was rather hilarious, and did my ego no end of good, frankly. Huge thanks to Rachel Bide, Rachel Bannister and all the other teachers who made it such a smoothly-run and enjoyable day!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Big Top and you Don't Stop

 Sarah McIntyre (she is the one in the hat), MC-ing what proved to be a BLOODY and BRUTAL Live Comics Battle between the two deadly comics-fightin' machines, Gary Northfield and Jamie Littler)

I was off in London yesterday at the Comics Big-Top of Awesome and it was, well, it was as much fun as that sounds. Actually, you know what? It was even MORE fun. Part of London's annual Pop-Up Festival of Stories, this one-day event at Central St. Martins was organised by Sarah McIntyre (ably supported by David O'Connell) and was a full day of insanely fun activities focussed on getting kids making up their own stories and turning them into comics on the spot.

A young artist named George and his brilliant comic about a Heroic Dragon, who loves climbing mountains. (I had to get a picture of this page as it is, basically, my new favourite thing ever.)

The Big-Top of Comics Awesome being set up in the morning.

The tent itself looked amazing - all the artwork and props and the brilliant Story-Generating Wheels were put together by three Central St Martins students - Isa Caruncho, Maddy Rita Faye and Chiahui Liao (check out Sarah's blog post on the subject for lots of great pics of them putting it all together) and they did a brilliant job of creating a fun, big-top of comics-awesome-y atmosphere.

There was a brilliant line-up of artists there all day - Jamie Smart, Nana Li, Gary Northfield, Jamie Littler, as well as Sarah and Dave themselves. And I was there also. We were all taking turns doing drawing demonstrations / tutorials, playing all manner of fun silly drawing games and challenges, but mainly just hanging out, chatting to the kids and helping them (if help be needed) make their comics. I did what was apparently supposed to be a 20-minute stint drawing robots on the big boards, but... well, basically I got a bit confused and nobody told me to stop and the next time I looked up it was an hour and a half later and I had drawn QUITE A LOT of robots. Here are some of them, with their new owners!

And look who else popped up:

It's only my old gaffer, Professor Cameron himself and his partner Ro, on a flying visit in the middle of hiking up the Andes (or possibly the Regent's Canal, it was all a bit busy so I may have misheard.)
Also lovely to see John Aggs and Laura Howell, who popped up over the course of the day as Special Unscheduled Bonus Guest Cartoonists and I think got roped into drawing some silliness too. My only regret from the day is that in all the brilliant craziness I completely failed to properly meet or buy any comics from Zoom Rockman, the 11-year-old cartoonist extraodinaire who was helping us out and who ran his own workshop on the day. Hopefully next time! 
One of Jamie Smart's saner drawings from the day.
It was a really great day, such a brilliant concept and it worked out really well - the tables inside and outside the tent were buzzing all day, full of kids and parents and itinterant comics artists sitting around drawing, folding paper and busily making up adventures for Mermaid Superheroes who lived in Rubbish Dumps, and so forth. We had a giant pile of Phoenixes and SEVERAL giant piles of Awesome Comics Activity Sheets and stuff to give away, and they all disappeared rather quickly. At the risk of getting a bit gushy, I think this is a really exciting time for British comics, specifically British children's comics, and that is in huge part thanks to the brilliance, creativity and tireless hard work of people like Sarah, and Gary, and Jamie and Jamie and Nana and Dave and John and Laura, and it was just a huge honour to get to be a part of such a great day. 

 TEAM COMICS! (l-r: me, Nana Li, Sarah McIntyre, Gary Northfield, Jamie Littler, Jamie Smart, David O'Connell)

There was some post-Big-Top hanging out that was so much fun I, um,  found it rather difficult to tear myself away, and so I didn't make it back to Oxford until Ridiculous O'Clock this morning, and between that and having been on my feet drawing robots all day I'm currently a bit brain-meltingly exhausted and generally awesomeness-punchdrunk. But I wanted to blog about this while it was all fresh, and say a huge thanks to everyone who came along and made it such a fun day, to my fellow artists for just being such a delightful bunch, and most of all to Sarah and Dave for organising such a fantastic day.

See, told you I was going to get gushy.