Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Finally managed to dig up an early comic book I self published some years ago (back in 1998). Side-Show was an exercise. I got a batch of A4 sheets of paper, and conquered my fear of the empty page by simply making it up as I went along.

I got a brush pen and drew straight in, not worrying about script or worrying about pencils. 36 pages in all and it took two or three days in total to produce. It was a crude effort, to say the least, but it was effort, and that's what mattered. And the fun was really in discovering the story, letting it just spill out.

The only rule I applied to the process, the golden rule really, was that I couldn't give the story any real consideration, I couldn't think further than the page I was drawing at the time, the reveal was to be as much as a revelation to me as it was for my intended victim; the reader. What unfolded before me was the story of a stage manager in charge of auditions for a side-show. He ends up losing the keys to his apartment late one night and has a detour of an adventure trying to get home. He encounters a man who believes he's lycanthropic and that he was once a police sniffer dog, a gang of pyromaniac children who roam the streets at night setting light to penguins and holding residents to ransom, aliens with an important message but flawed means of communication and ofcourse, "The Eater", a mysterious beast that lurks beneath a theatre (or theater) devouring down-on-their-luck performers who fail their audition.

Then, when I was done, I pieced together my first issue using the photo-copier at work (I was working at Passion Pictures at the time). I took this first issue to Gosh comics in London and they said they would take ten copies which was all that I printed. Most of them sold.

I went on to produce a further three issues (all at 36 pages each, which meant that by the time I would be done I'd produced 144 pages over the collective course of roughly 12 days, a veritable magnum opus!). Each issue was the same night from someone elses' perspective, with stories crossing paths part way through. I printed the second issue for friends who'd read the first but after that I didn't print anymore. Two issues remain unread by anyone but me, and following a recent weekend of hunting around the attic, the last issue now remains lost forever, and I only read it once at the time.

As I reached the closing pages of issue 4, I stopped (issue four contained a half drawn panel, abandoned, the Marie Celeste of comic book panels, the lines unfinished, the intention unclear). I stopped because I suddenly realised that the golden rule I'd set at the start had been broken. I'd started to give what I was doing too much consideration. These characters I had had started to take on lives of their own. I'd reached the end. It was just an experiment after all, and I realised then that I'd had my fun out of it and that was that.

I had planned at one point to simply print a run of fifty and then travel all over London one day leaving copies dotted about in unlikely places. In telephone boxes, public toilets, in between the pages of a broadsheet newspaper, tucked away for an unsuspecting reader to find. The concept of the 'unsuspecting' readership appealed to me, but I hadn't been organized enough to sort out contact details for 'random readers' to get in touch with (which would possibly have made for an eclectic letters page in the next issue).

However, about a year later I got picked up by Picasso Pictures as a Director and started work there on a TV show for the BBC called "Liar Liar Pants on Fire". The show was based on a comic strip I'd done in much the same style as side-show. One of the writers we picked to write for the show was Ian Carney (of Sugar Buzz fame), who lives in Liverpool, but, rather remarkably was one of the ten people to have bought the first and only issue I'd ever published of side-show, when he'd been visiting London sometime earlier. So notions of 'random readership' were fullfilled to some extent.

Here are the cover to that comic and wise reminiscences from Owen Fishpaste who appeared on the backs of every issue with a story from his remarkable life.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dark Horse: New Recruits

To get the ball rolling, here is the cover art I produced for the anthology, which, along with characters from Wild Talents, includes characters from Nick Plumber and Adam Adamowicz's The Pied Piper, RHS' Discreet Dispair, Andrew Krahnke's Zombie Killer and Jacob Chabot's The Mighty Skullboy Army.

And here are the first two pages of Wild Talents: The God Machine (a 'steampunk-ish' tale of mystery and adventure on the fog shrouded streets of Victorian London).

Wild Talents: The God Machine is Copyright ©Ian Culbard, 2005.
You can find reviews of the Anthology here and here. You can also buy a copy of it here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Welcome to Strange Planet Stories.

I'm an Animation Director who makes TV commercials and helps develop TV shows (you can see my animation work here) and have just started out in the field of comics.

I recently (Jan '06) had the good fortune of having two stories published in the Dark Horse: New Recruits anthology (vol. 1) and will be keeping this blog as a journal of my adventures in COMICS and ANIMATION as it were. I'll be posting my own artwork from time to time and generally anything else that catches my attention. I'll also be linking some YouTube broadcasts of my animation.