Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Trucking Hell

One of the advantages of setting The Absence in the 1940s is that the vehicles are pretty blocky in shape, and thus easy to draw in perspective. This is especially handy when there's a whole queue of 'em... This was another of those pictures which I approached with a 'gulp - this ain't gonna go well' attitude but which actually worked out ok in the end. Gonna need to fiddle with the load on the back of the truck though. Looks a touch unbalanced.

Oh, and I need to fix Marwood's left eye which is wandering across his face.

And I'm going to add some clouds, cos there's a storm approaching.

And I might add a bit more grass.

Other than that: finished.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Trying to write a 1940s-based comic can be a pain in the arse. Although I'm not slavishly researching the time period I'm doing what I can to at least avoid any basic errors. Currently I'm trying to find out what a medium-scale building project might've looked like (What type of cranes would've been used? What type of perimeter fencing? What type of building materials? What type of trucks? Did the builders wear helmets...?). You'd have thought that, post-blitz, there'd have been a plethora of images online of London being rebuilt. But no. Maybe I need to try (gulp) a library. I think I still have a membership card somewhere...

Occasionally with this research lark you get lucky. Issue #2 briefly has the eight-year old Thomas playing with toy soldiers. Obviously, when I was a kid the things were made of plastic, but in the 1940s...? Well I found this lovely pic:

And here's the pencils for 2.8.1 (

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

How things can go awry

Last post I introduced Mr. Pitman. He only plays a very minor role in the Absence (although oddly his one major 'scene' was one of the first ideas I had). He's Robert Temple's site manager and his frustrations at the demands of building Temple's strange house is meant to reflect the readers feelings.
So, this is Mr Pitman:
Now, in my head I imagined him looking something like TV presenter Dick Strawbridge (or at least having a mustache like Strawbridge's):
I added a flat cap. Because he's a builder. And because it's the 1940s. Duh.
And finally I put him period style over-alls:
Brilliant, I thought. Mr Pitman! Until a friend pointed out Mr Pitman's similarity to this guy:

Bugger. Still as I say, he's barely in the fucking comic so frankly I don't care that he looks like an Italian plumber.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Issue 2, Page 6, Panel 1

I'm 7 pages of pencils into issue 2 and, with a couple of days off work, I hoped to have them inked soon. Here's one of the panels featuring Robert Temple (right) and his erstwhile building site foreman Mr Pitman (left). That crater? Ah, well, you'll have to wait to find out about the crater...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

"They say he didn't sleep during the entire war..."

With issue one finally finished I've allowed myself a month off before launching into issue two. Feedback from the folk who read #1 was very encouraging and has really rekindled my enthusiasm for the project. But it a weird way it's made me more nervous too. I need to make sure that issue #2 is better than (or at least as good as) #1 and I didn't have that pressure before. I think I have 'difficult second album' syndrome.

I've not been idle for the last month. I don't have a lot to show - I've mostly been plotting #2. Annoyingly, I have a very clear idea of what will happen in issue #3 but #2 is a little more... nebulous. I need to introduce the other main character, a chap called Robert Temple, who's a new comer to the town. I have the first few pages roughed out and I know where the issue needs to end to lead into #3, but what happens in the middle is proving a challenge. I think if The Absence was, as originally conceived, a novel it wouldn't be as difficult because it'd be based around interior monologue - but as a comic I'm trying to find a way to navigate the story in a more visual way.

Anyway, while I struggle with this here's a thumbnail sketch of a promo poster I might, at some point, work up, and also some (very rough) sketches from my development of Robert Temple. They say he didn't sleep during the entire war...

(Obligatory sales and marketing comment: Uh, there's more copies of issue #1 available if anyone wants one. See info on the right for details. Obligatory sales and marketing comment ends.)

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Issue #1 available now!

So. Back from the printers: a bunch of lovely copies of The Absence #1. A handful have already been sold, but there's still plenty available if you'd like one. Feedback from early readers has been good. Lots of people commenting on the lovely paper stock that lulu have used (a clear case of damning with faint praise...)

Being utterly useless at... well, at many things, but especially at sales and marketing crap, I haven't quite figured the best way to sell these. So currently there's two options:


Here's some pics as proof the thing exists:

Now, buy one.
Or don't.
(See, told you I'm rubbish at sales and marketing...)

Thursday, 23 July 2009


Cover below. As always, it's a composite of a whole bunch of images - not least the photo which is compiled from different photos. The cliff edge, the little village in the distance, the outcrop of rock, the church, the hill in the far distance... all different pics. The illustration is also layered to hell and back.

In other news, I've also uploaded the entire first issue to the printer's, and ordered a couple of issues to proof! If it's all ok, I'll post details here...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Creation of a single frame

So, although this is essentially a sparse frame, what there is is quite technical.

This is the basic artwork:

The pub sign is in perspective, but is important and will appear again. So I decided to draw it as a separate piece:

And created the name of the pub in Illustrator (adding a slightly rough edge to give it a little more of a 'hand-drawn' quality. Yes, ok, I cheated.

The shadow that Marwood casts needed to also be a separate piece due to a cross-fade thing which happens on the previous page.

Bolt it all together in Photoshop and you get, if you're lucky, this:

The fun of working this way is that the final art is a surprise to even me. I do what I can to minimise any errors in the artwork (and anyway, any problems can be ironed out in Photoshop) but until it's put together I can't say for sure how well it'll work. I'm really pleased with the pub sign, for example and I wasn't sure I was gonna pull that off.

Friday, 26 June 2009

The Back

Well, the front's unfinished, but here's the back of issue one...

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Making a page

Given my style is somewhat splattery I sometimes have to take the long way around the block to get a finished, tidy page of artwork. Take page nine, for example. It's the penultimate page of the prologue, and sees a poor chap falling to his doom down the side of a cliff.

First I thumbnailed the page in rough to establish the pace of the action. Then I painted the background 'cliff' with my usual messy approach of spray and random lines.

Then, with a little more detail and on a separate piece of card, I drew the various panels which will need to go on top. The images below also contain a few redrawn boulders for one of the panels.

And then, on a piece of layout paper, I drew the rain effect using a variety of media.

A bit of photoshopping the whole lot together and I get the final page:

I've done a few pages in this fashion and it goes some way to explaining why it's taking SO FUCKING LONG, I think. It also means there's very few drawn pages which are 'complete' as a single piece of art. I think all of them have required some replacement panels in photoshop to some extent,

Friday, 19 June 2009


The Absence now has a logo. Look, there it is as the top of the page. That's the version for the cover. There's also this version:

for interior pages.
The seagull is kind of a reoccurring motif for reasons which will become clear.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

First proper pic!

Having dug out my (faulty) scanner from under a mountain of paperwork, I've managed to scan an actual pencilled picture from issue one. This is Marwood returning to his home town following a nasty run-in with the local beat bobby. Like the church interior pic (which hopefully I'll be able to post in a week or so), this is another one which I was dreading attempting but again actually turned out okay. I used a fair amount of photo research on it – the town is a mixture of three or so photos while the cliff edge in the distance is something I added at the last minute to both give a bit of depth and also suggest the town's geography.

I'm quite pleased with it - I think I've captured the 'steep hill into town' look I was going for.

Another crappy flatplan

These are the first 8 or so pages in grotesquely-rough-but-not-as-rough-as-the-last-flatplan form. The pages have changed a little since I did this sketch, mostly in terms of the pacing.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Original notes

These are the original notes for The Absence... Good luck reading it - my handwriting is awful, but it's interesting to note the first 'drawings' - a little doodle of the cliff-top church from the prologue and even a basic map of the town, too.

Yes, I'm well aware, considering this is supposed to be a comic, that I've uploaded bugger all in the way of actual art. I don't own a scanner at home so I'm gonna have to wait until I can scan everything at once at work. Hopefully in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Sketch book

The Absence originally started life as an idea for a novel, but once I'd decided to run with it as a comic I need to revisit the visual element of the story - including character design. The images below represent some idle commuting-based doodling but they were enough to make me radically rethink one of the lead characters and actually added an entirely different spin onto the whole idea of the story.

The images are actually a little 'spoilery' but a) you'll be hard pressed to work out any detail in my scrawls and b) you find out the gag in issue one anyway.


This represents the extent of my detailed flatplanning for #1...

Yes, it's as rough as houses and was for a while, it turns out, utterly wrong (I'd miscounted the pages!) but it's enough for me to figure out where I am and what needs still to be done. Because I'm writing the script as I draw the pages it's all fairly fluid anyway. No, really.

Friday, 17 April 2009


The logo needs to echo the themes of the comic. It needs to be fractured and it needs to be missing something intangible whilst remaining readable and strikingly immediate. I'm keen to try a version where the logo is almost a negative image - so the shapes around the characters make the words. None of these first attempts are doing it for me. I think it needs a more 'hand-drawn' feel and less obviously a 'font'. Frankly even tinkering with a logo at this stage seems woefully premature since I still have so far to go with issue one...

The sixth one down is the closet thing to what's in my head, but fuck knows if it's even readable. 'Absence' is a weird word, looks like it's been spelt wrong even when it hasn't, so it's tough making it cryptic yet legible. What I really want to do is something like Rian Hughes' logo for The Invisibles. The sooner I can get it right the sooner I can loose that ugly font at the top of this page...