CYDO - Coming this June!

This has been reprinted from my newsletter, Hellworld. To read it in full, subscribe to it if you want.

You’ve probably already seen a lot of the business about CYDO this month. Tony Esmond wrote a lovely preview of it, The Lakes podcast had nice things to say about it, and a few of my peers who saw it seemed to like it. I covered what it is in a tweet thread that you almost certainly saw so I won’t go over it here extensively; if you missed it, it’s a one-shot printed on one sheet of A2 paper (four times the size of A4, fact fans) with a “cover” (poster) on the back.

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CYDO has been in the script drawer for a long, long time. The first reference I can find to it in my archive was June 9th, 2018, where it was deemed “too stupid to work” (my wife protested at the time, showing remarkable prescience as usual). I’ve generally always got more scripts to hand than I can draw in any given time (a problem I’m taking steps to rectify, but that won’t be for a while), and some scripts will never see the light of day, but CYDO – as stupid as it is – kept luring me back. I’ve learned by now that if I consign an idea to the drawer for being too stupid, but continue thinking about it, that’s a sign to just do it. Bald was in the drawer for a while, as was Plan A/Plan B (fun fact: Plan B was originally written as a stand-alone, and was essentially a sequel to Bald; figure that one out). Trust your gut, innit.

CYDO was originally written up to occupy a similar space on my convention rack as Adrift; a short-form black-and-white thing that was silly and cheap. But after taking a full and frank inventory, I came to realise two things:

1)    Not everything has to be a book, and

2)    I needed something to occupy the £1 price-point; I am fond of Hell, the current cheapest thing on the menu, but – being frank – I think that price-point could be better-occupied by a more satisfying piece of work. I like Hell, but it’s very short and I don’t feel it represents my work as well as something like Adrift. This is a problem as a lot of people – who are looking to buy a little thing from everyone for maximum coverage – buy Hell and nothing else.

I wanted a full-colour offering at the £1 spot, something to give people a flavour of what I do without the big investment. Books are, obviously, expensive to print and manufacture, and it’s virtually impossible to produce a colour book at the £1 price point and stand a chance of making your costs back; with that in mind, I went searching through my printer’s other products. Aside from the books you all know and love, they also make posters. However, some research revealed that these posters are printed on the exact same paper stock as the insides of my books, and I’ve been very pleased with the quality of that paper. I know how my art looks on it, and I know how it handles and feels. If you have a physical copy of any of my titles, you know this paper too. In addition to that, I have observed – from the assorted conventions I’ve been to – that people’s eyes are naturally drawn to the more unusually-shaped books. Adrift does well, as do Gang Culture and Hell (my little square books); I think there’s certainly something to be said for experimenting with form factor. I am confident that – once this is out – I will offer the country’s most diverse range of comics in terms of size, if nothing else.

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As you can see, £1 for a one-shot of this magnitude is a bargain for the ages, and once again I have absolutely demolished the brain-addled slobs who think comics must be a certain size or shape. Comics purists, eat your breakfast.

 

CYDO won’t be available to buy online for the time being, mainly because the price of packing and posting it would likely treble or quadruple the price; convention only for the foreseeable future. I’m sorry about this. The hope is that this will work really well, so well that I can make more comics in this format, and then sell them in a bundle to lower the impact of postage and packaging. 

So for now they’re convention only, where there will be a small pile of banded, rolled-up tubes. If people want to keep it rolled up and put it on their wall, that’s fine. If they want to fold it up and stick it in their pocket, also fine. If they want to scrunch it into a ball and kick it into the Clyde, I wouldn’t encourage it but that’s their prerogative. I’m not fishing it out of the Clyde.

Will it work? Who knows. Maybe. Worth a go innit. Always worth a punt on something new. Fuck it.

CYDO will be launching at Glasgow Comic Con on June 29th 2019, and will be making its English debut on Small Press Day. If you want one in Wales just come to my house or get a job where I work.

In Conclusion

-       CYDO; it’s good, it’s cheap, and it’s big

-       It’s coming out in June

-       I am not under any circumstances retrieving rubbish from the Clyde

Thank you

HATED IN THE NATION: Dead Singers Society IV now available to pre-order, plus “PLAN A/PLAN B” coming November 2018

What a week! Thought Bubble is solidly behind us now, so time to look, once again, to the future. Onwards!

Dead Singers Society IV

I’m delighted to inform you that I will be featured in the forthcoming Good Comics anthology, Dead Singers Society IV. It’s available to pre-order here and is 60 pages of some extraordinary talents, so I was absolutely delighted to be included. 

Da Song z0ne

Da Song z0ne

Good Comics put out a call recently for artists/writers to pitch work for the fourth (and apparently final) instalment of Dead Singers Society. The premise is that each contributor is given two pages max to either write or draw about a dead singer of their choosing. The only proviso, as far as I was aware, was that you could not cover somebody already featured in a prior edition.

Many of the people who sprung to mind for me were, understandably, taken; I was equally surprised by who wasn’t taken (D Boon, my first choice, was gone, only to look down the list and see that Buddy Holly, for instance, was not). Cobain and co (the usual suspects) were all gone, but after a little thinking, a light bulb went off; I decided to illustrate a short biocomic on G.G. Allin.

Why I Picked G.G. Allin

G.G. Allin.

G.G. Allin.

 For those not familiar with G.G. Allin, he was a punk-rock frontman (G.G. Allin & The Murder Junkies), whose “main” compilation record, Hated In The Nation, is definitely worth a listen for people with allied tastes (if you like Black Flag, Misfits, Germs etc. it’s worth a go). Most people who attended G.G. Allin shows did not get to hear much of his repertoire, however; he is, in fact, most famous for his live performances, in which he would grace the stage in a white jock-strap (which would inevitably come off over the course of the show), typically defecate on the stage, and beat up his fans. He would punch them, they would punch him, he would wrestle with them and drag them on the stage, and they would all be rolling around in poop and blood. The band carried on to the best of their ability, but by this point in the shows it was largely just incidental music. 

Hated In The Nation (1998).

Hated In The Nation (1998).

Video footage of G.G. Allin concerts is certainly something; I’ve attended some “rough” shows, but I have never seen anything like a G.G. Allin show, and hopefully never will. A mixture of Tom Hardy’s Bronson and Charles Manson, covered in homemade tattoos, G.G. Allin had the look of a caged animal in a lot of his videos (and I watched a lot of videos of G.G. in the research phase of the piece I did). Some people in the audience clearly came with the expressed intent of getting into it with Allin, as some concerts do not make it more than a minute in before G.G. is fully nude and engaging in quite direct fistfighting with members of the audience (who seem to be enjoying the process; I sometimes wonder if these people, now in their 50s or older, think back fondly on the time G.G. Allin beaned them with a microphone and smeared turds on them). Venues would, almost invariably, pull the plug before the show had finished; perhaps thinking this would placate Allin, much as a towel over a bird’s cage convinces them it is night-time (this seldom worked on Allin). He would stalk around, nude, scowling, covered in blood and faeces, before the crowd was inevitably driven back and the show brought to a halt. Allin was no stranger to county jails. Shows would be cancelled or moved, but the G.G. Allin machine seemed almost impervious to systematic shunning; he remained in high demand until his death (Hated In The Nationfeatures a section of his answer machine cassette, in which he is offered show after show, including a support for the Dead Kennedys; one promoter, obviously aware of the connotations Allin’s name may bring, asked him to lie at the door if asked who he was).

G.G. Allin with a young Jon “Speedo” Reis, frontman of my eternal favourites Rocket From The Crypt.

G.G. Allin with a young Jon “Speedo” Reis, frontman of my eternal favourites Rocket From The Crypt.

G.G. Allin died of a drug overdose after a show in 1993. His brother arranged an open-casket funeral for Allin, who had received no cosmetic or hygiene treatment from the mortician; his face puffy and red, Allin lay on a folding table in the middle of a living room, dressed in his trademark jockstrap and leather jacket, still caked in whatever was on him during his final show. People poured whiskey into his mouth and rubbed his head. I know this, because his funeral was filmed, and is also on YouTube (as “The Final Hellride”). His tombstone had to be removed because die-hard fans would routinely urinate and defecate on it, thinking it fitting tribute to a man who had seemingly dedicated his life to rounding up bored punks and rolling around in his droppings with them. Such was the life and times of G.G. Allin. RIP in peace.

G.G. Allin was not a nice man; his list of convictions is unpleasant reading, and my piece on him in DSS4 is not intended to venerate or revere him. I did wonder if G.G. would be suitable subject matter, but I think with fabled figures like G.G. Allin (not that there’s many), you’re ultimately dealing largely with myth rather than man. Allin’s legacy is so absurd, his on-stage persona so repulsive that it has rendered Allin impervious to hyperbole; it is impossible to overstate how much of a mess his live shows were, or to exaggerate the extent of his villainy. I could have picked somebody else, of course I could have. But as the legend of G.G. Allin is so captivating, and has so thoroughly pervaded branches of U.S. punk rock, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try and twist it into an entertaining comic.

An excerpt from my comic, “Hated In The Nation: The Story of G.G. Allin”.

An excerpt from my comic, “Hated In The Nation: The Story of G.G. Allin”.

If you do pick up the compilation, I hope you enjoy it.

Other Business: New Release for 2018

I announced on Twitter the other day that I have a new book coming out. I am happy to report that my original report is still true.

The comic is called “PLAN A” and “PLAN B”. It has two titles on purpose. More will be shared about the exact nature and mechanics of Plan A/Plan B nearer its November release, but for now enjoy this sample art.

Sample art from “Plan A/Plan B”.

Sample art from “Plan A/Plan B”.

The Floating Hand is still being worked on, but – with Adrift, Thought Bubble, and now this – has been pushed to the back end of the year. There will come a time when work must cease on my first graphic novel (particularly as the script for my second – which is substantially longer and more involved than The Floating Hand – has largely been written already, and will have to commence at some point). When I will have to down tools, and let it out into the wider world. But that time is not now.

As things stand, I’m fairly happy with the 2018 catalogue. I’ve released two one-shots (Adrift and Bald, both of which got kind reviews), have another coming, and am on the home stretch with a hundred-page graphic novel. Could have done more, but eh. Got to make time for yourselves lads.

In Conclusion

-      Please buy Dead Singers Society IV here.

-      New book coming soon.

-      Please buy that too.

-      G.G. Allin wasn’t very nice

Thanks,

John

Thought Bubble & My Rookie Year

Well, here we are then. Our first Thought Bubble is in the bag. The show I’ve wanted to do for the best part of a decade, over in the blink of an eye. I am now back in my house, near Swansea, with a cup of tea and the biggest convention of my “career” thus far in the rear view mirror. Let’s try our best to make sense of the show, the year that preceded it, and what it all means. Easy.

Thought Bubble 2018

What can I say about Thought Bubble that somebody else won’t have already said? It’s the big leagues of indie comics; small press tastemaker and impresario Sarah Harris (of Swindon’s Incredible Comics) once said that Thought Bubble is where you go to “arrive”; to announce your presence on the scene. A lot of people were making that announcement this year, including us (me and my wife, who is my salesperson and spokesperson while I’m busy drawing or scowling).

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 Thought Bubble looks, superficially, like other conventions, but it is not like other conventions. On its face, the process of getting to Thought Bubble was identical to the CICE and True Believers processes – we applied early, sent in some JPGs and text, then we turned up with comics and a roulette wheel. There was a folding table and some chairs, and nearby people were putting up those wire print holders that you clip together. Same old. But, as we soon learned, Thought Bubble is unlike anything else we’d encountered previously.

 I knew Thought Bubble was big, but I had no real concept of its breadth and scale until I saw it all laid out, taking over a large portion of the city centre. The marquee we were in, alone, would have been the largest comic convention I’ve ever exhibited at, before you consider it was one of four venues. Thought Bubble is almost too much, but of course if you’re into comics there’s probably no such thing as too much. I had grand plans to see so many people, almost all of which were lost to the blur of the event (except for Tony Esmond, Todd Oliver, and Sarah Millman, and even then I didn’t even get to see at her at her actual table; I bumped into her purely by chance in the street). If you want to experience Thought Bubble, don’t get a table. You can either be at it or in it, and never the twain shall meet.

 The mid-con party was a godsend in that regard, and it was a real pleasure to talk shop with other exhibitors while watching a flamboyant German attempting pistol squats to Boney M’s “Rasputin” in full cosplay. In fact, of all the things that happened in Leeds this weekend, I think I enjoyed the mid-con get-together more than anything. It’s so rare you get to really talk to other people doing this sort of thing – comics is, by nature, an isolationist pursuit, and even if you’re tabling next to good people (as we, fortunately, have done every time so far – this time with Paul Moore, a true gent and a talented man) you never really get to talk. I managed to get some good conversations in with Jon Laight, fellow weird comic producer Todd Oliver, and Andy Barron (whose work is so unique it looks like it was produced off-planet, a distant civilisation’s take on sequential art). And I saw the pistol squats. Great party, cheers lads.

 In regard to the actual show itself, I’m probably one of the worst people to write about Thought Bubble, because I saw fuck all of the actual show. We had so much fun - we met lots of great people, saw friends from shows past, Lauren met somebody off the Bake Off (I don’t watch it but she seemed very nice) - but it was just so hectic we couldn’t get a sense of what the punters experienced. All I can really tell you is how we did as exhibitors, as rookie exhibitors with a half-table in a marquee large enough to accommodate several hundred of the most talented indie comic artists in the country.  

How Did We Do?

I went to Thought Bubble feeling relatively conflicted in regards to expectations. What would low sales mean? What would high sales mean? Would we sell anything at all? Would we be kicked ceremoniously in the arse with a big pointed boot if we didn’t meet quota? No way to know. Had to just go there and see what happened. I had advantages here that I hadn’t had at our first show at True Believers – we’d had some experience, and some success, and we had the roller banner, at once repulsing and attracting, a cursed beacon luring punters towards it against their will.

It’s impossible to deduce your standing in comics from any one show, but if there’s one thing I learned from Thought Bubble, it is that any lessons you have learned from other shows do not apply there. Thought Bubble is a different animal; the punters look the same as the punters elsewhere, but they are not the same. They will do what other punters do – look at the roller banner with either amusement or disgust, pick up a comic to a gruesome page before sidling away, the usual – but these are not the people we encountered in Cardiff, Cheltenham, or Swindon. At smaller shows, we sold a lot of bumper packs (complete sets of my entire back catalogue, with a sketch, for a tenner). We offered a very similar package at Thought Bubble, and we priced competitively as we always do (or at least I feel we do). But the vast majority of money that came over the table was either for a Death Roulette on its own (£5, and fine by me – it’s the highest margin item on the table, considering I’m going to be at the table anyway and I genuinely love doing them) or a single issue, typically Adrift or one of the other shorter minis (Hell– my £1 mini-comic – was the breakout star).

We put this down to the sheer crushing weight of the competition; whereas a £10 pack of comics may seem like a good deal at a smaller show, at a show the size of Thought Bubble the smart play is to get a little taste off everybody. We’ll be making sure we’ve got more little things for sale next time, and I would definitely recommend anybody thinking about Thought Bubble to make sure you have plenty of “easy pickups” – badges, short comics for cheap etc. It also helps if you have something unique, which we will come to shortly.

We didn’t quite break even – nor, frankly, did I expect to; how could we? We’d driven from Swansea and spent two nights in a hotel, and then there was the cost of the table on top. But we came closer to breaking even than I would have imagined; very close indeed. Especially considering: 

-      I’m still a no-name, in the grand scheme of things (though some people did seek me out to pick up Adrift based on good reviews they’d read, and I signed my first few honest-to-goodness autographs for people who don’t realise my comics are actually worth lessif they’re signed). 

-      What an honour it is for anybody to spend anything at your table at an event like that. Considering the exhibitor list was essentially a who’s who of UK indie talent, I know how lucky we were to have made one red penny. I wouldn’t have bought anything from me if I’d been a visitor at that show, for fuck’s sake.

If you bought from us this weekend, even if it was just a badge, or you just took a business card or talked to us for a minute, I’m very grateful. I’m especially grateful if you joined the 2018 class of Death Roulette. 

Death Roulette

For those who aren’t aware, Death Roulette is my signature convention sketch game; we bring a small toy roulette wheel, and each of the 37 numbers corresponds to an improbable mode of death that I keep hidden under the table. You pay £5, spin the wheel, I take a good look at you, and you come back in 10 minutes to find out how you died. 

We welcomed an all-time record number of people to the Death Roulette hall of fame at Thought Bubble; nearly 30 people elected to be mangled, crushed, decapitated, stabbed, shot, frozen, impaled, or otherwise maimed. I love doing Death Roulette portraits, and thankfully everybody so far has seemed happy with the grim vision of their own demise they’ve received. Here’s some of my favourites from Thought Bubble.

Death Roulette has been a godsend at conventions; it’s gotten conversations started and it’s driven comic sales (either from people “upgrading” to a bumper pack that includes the portrait and all the comics, or people getting a sense of what’s inside the comics from their portrait). Out of respect to those brave enough to take a blind punt on their own demise this year, I’ve decided to draw a line under the 2018 class of Death Roulette, in that any deaths that were drawn this year will never be repeated. If you took part in Leeds, or Cardiff, Cheltenham, or Swindon, thank you so much. You are more handsome than god and braver than the troops.

In Conclusion

Thought Bubble has been a long time coming for me; I may have had the highest ratio of “years planning on exhibiting” to “years exhibiting” of any attendee this year. When I moved to Manchester for university (in – ugh – 2008), myself and my good friend Paul Capewell arrived a little older than our contemporaries and unenthused about the idea of chugging beer through a funnel or playing soggy biscuit on a flag frisbee team. We were hugely fortunate, then, to have found a poorly-advertised “society” – the ragtag group of misfits responsible for running PULP Magazine, the student union publication. We signed up in the afternoon one day, and joined the editorial board that evening. I would spend my every waking hour that year writing print and video content for the magazine and the website, and Paul became its defacto web lead, building its website and churning out videos that looked far better than they had any right to considering the equipment on which they were made. PULP Magazine had no money, no time, and no oversight beyond its perennially overworked editor. Paul and I were not the best-qualified people on campus for the jobs we did at PULP, but we were available, and willing, and if we didn’t do things, nobody else would. The editorial team of PULP 2008/09 spun straw into gold in a way I’ve not really experienced since (and would do anything to experience again). 

I think everyone who worked on PULP that year got something out of it, but the main thing I got out of it is that you don’t have to ask permission to make things, and you can’t afford to wait. PULP changed hands the following year and folded shortly after due to perennial mismanagement on the part of the student union (leaving Manchester Met – a university that so prides itself on its art and design faculty – as the largest university in the world without an official print outlet for its students’ work), and shortly after it died, I began producing photocopier comics under an assumed name. I think I just needed something to fill the void that PULP had left behind. They weren’t the best work I’ve ever done, but that doesn’t matter. Manchester had a vibrant, healthy culture of weirdo small-press bullshit where the only thing that mattered was the willingness to make something; be it zines full of emetic-grade poetry, or – in my case - self-produced compendiums of the worst comics ever made. I had experienced a late-stage conversion to comics after becoming intoxicated by the beguiling work being put out by Kate Beaton and KC Green, whose work seemed to single-handedly wash away the ungodly stench brought on by the mid-2000s webcomic “boom” (many people think the 90s was comics’ nadir, but all the foil covers in the world cannot touch the sheer volume of excruciatingly poor content produced by the supposed champions of webcomics in the early-to-mid 2000s). And PULP had taught me that nobody’s going to tap you on the shoulder to let you know it’s time – you just have to crack on with what you’ve got and hope you eventually land somewhere you want to be, knowing that even if you don’t you’ll probably feel better for having done something. I had heard, through regional channels, of Thought Bubble, which was growing each year. I swore I would, one day, when I was ready, fill out an application, set up a table, and do it. Just do it, fuck it, see what happened. That was 2010. 

A lot happened between those first photocopier comics and my Thought Bubble debut – I graduated, got a job, got married. Got a kitten, called it Potato. Life happened. I stalled on comics, but the idea of comics never really went away; I dabbled with it the whole time, aimlessly, never sure what exactly I ought to do with it. Just over a year ago, I decided to actually make a proper go at it for the first time; really put all my effort into it, and see what happens. I didn’t know what success looked like, but I thought I’d know it when I saw it. Looking back over the past year, I think I have had a successful rookie year in comics. I’ve had profitable showings at good comic conventions, my work has had good reviews from established critics, and I finally held my own at the convention that has been my white whale, taunting me from afar, for eight years. It’s hard for anything to live up to eight years of hype, especially when that hype is entirely self-generated.

But I think the past year, and Thought Bubble with it, was a bigger success than I could have reasonably hoped for. And I believe now, perhaps more than ever before, in the ethos I learned at PULP Magazine – if you don’t make whatever it is you have the urge to make, nobody else will, and there’s never a good time. You just have to get on with it. It took me a while, but I’m just glad I finally got on with it.

Thanks for making my first year in comics a success, and hopefully I’ll see you at next year’s Thought Bubble.

ADRIFT - Launching at Thought Bubble

Hello hello,

Only stopping by quickly, I've got things to do and I'm sure you do too.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I finally got my act together enough to register for Thought Bubble this year, and was graciously accepted. While I had hoped to launch The Floating Hand there, that's taking a little longer than planned; writing a graphic novel is a very different kettle of fish to putting a one-shot together, so I'm just trying to get it looking its best before I unveil it. It's coming soon, I am presently on the back stretch. The wait is nearly over (you can always read chapters one and two to make do for now).

Anyway, Thought Bubble's a big deal, and I thought it would be nice to have something new to show you. To that end, I present my newest one-shot, Adrift, which will be launching at Thought Bubble.

The front cover of  Adrift.

The front cover of Adrift.

Adrift is a short comic about what becomes of the world two years after all the gravity instantaneously and inexplicably goes away. Societal order has collapsed, and Adrift is the story of those that are left. It may not sound it, but it is another kitchen-sink weirdo-realism comedy in the vein of Bald.

It's 40 pages long, stark black and white throughout, and is A6 size (small, but perfectly formed), printed on beautiful silk stock. It will be for sale at my table at Thought Bubble for £2. Once Thought Bubble is finished, it will be available on my website for the same price.

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Additionally, because it's new (and - I feel - that a lot of the jokes depend on the page turns), I'm not putting it up in full on the publications page for now. Maybe I will one day. Who knows. But for now, I would obviously implore you to pick up a copy at Thought Bubble, or order a copy from the website once it has been released. I think the physical edition is worth it.

Thank you for reading, and thank you all for your kind words and support in the past year; this has been my "rookie year" in comics, and it's gone better than I could have hoped for. Once Thought Bubble is out of the way, I'm going to write an extended blog post containing my most powerful thoughts (never before released) on my first year in indie comics, in the hopes that it will be of some use to people who are in the position I was in one year ago. A lot has happened, so I'm sure there will be plenty to discuss.

Your friend,

John Tucker

The Floating Hand Chapter 2 now available

Hello hello hello,

In rousing news, the latest chapter of my 1920s Western crime serial - The Floating Hand - is now available to read. For those wishing for a refresher, or who are new to the story, chapter one is here.

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This brings The Floating Hand to 45 pages, which I estimate to be approximately halfway through, if just a little under. Additionally, this will be the last free-to-read chapter available online. The complete edition will be out in print later in the year. This is the way I'll likely do things as I begin to develop longer stories - the one shots, generally speaking, will always be available to read online for free, and there will be sizeable previews of long-form works so you can see if it's for you.

I'm pleased with how it's shaping up so far, and I hope you enjoy the second chapter.

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In other news, I will be appearing as a guest at Incredible Comics in Swindon on July 7th for their Small Press Day in store event. I'll be there with four other creators, where I will be selling books, signing books, drawing Death Roulettes, you name it.

Thanks,

John