Friday, December 27, 2019


We Feed on Crumbs of Shadow is the most fun I've ever had making comics. It felt spontaneous, energizing, and personal: a reminder of the way I made comics when I was younger.

And I am certain the reason for this lies with the process of how it came together, for which I can thank 24-Hour Comic Day! It's an international marathon event I've taken part in many times before, the goal being to create 24 original comic pages in 24 hours. I was fairly certain that (being a creator in his early-late thirties) I'd had my fun with the event and had moved on, certain that my fragile constitution could no longer handle these sorts of challenges. But it was a great opportunity to spend some time with my fellow students in Dundee, so I couldn't pass it up.

About eight hours into the event, I realized that the only way to finish by the 24-hour deadline would be to cut corners, get sloppy and phone it in. But I was so happy with the story, and so invested in it, that I decided to spend the remainder of my time honing the plot and creating finished pencils that would leave me with a satisfying comic that I could later ink on my own time. This was a story I'd had in mind for about a year now and because of its fast-paced, almost leap-frog style of plotting, it made the perfect choice for the event, guaranteeing I would always have something cool to draw and I wouldn't get bored!

The title is a reworking of a line from Sylvia Plath's poem Mushrooms (the line is featured in its original glory during the dream sequence, spoken by the Creature).  The idea was influenced by the book Man and His Symbols, edited by Carl Jung (a book which fuelled no less than four of my latest projects) and acts as a sort of Rosetta Stone for the story, though I hope the dream-like events of the comic are entertaining enough on their own to have given you an enjoyable and chilling first read. 

Alongside my constant horror influences like the Davids Lynch and Cronenberg, the other essential inspiration to the tone and visuals of the story came from the dance performance de.Vi.ate, performed by Alberta Ballet, and featuring the music of composer Andrew Staniland. This was an incredible event and it absolutely BLEW... ME... AWAY. I never considered myself a fan of dance but it was a huge inspiration to all my following work, which is a huuuuuge lesson for me to continue searching for inspiration outside of the comic world. I was literally listening to Staniland's score as I pencilled the comic like a madman, and it helped to immerse me in scenes as I imagined them. It was exhilarating!

It took three weeks to wrap up the comic after that first 24 hour stint, which was perfect timing to debut at the UK comic festival phenomenon Thought Bubble! It was my first time there, as visitor and exhibitor, and it was an overwhelming yet wonderful experience. It felt amazing to have new work to show off to a new audience.

Doing the inks on my iPad was a real thrill, allowing me to gets it all done quickly, and helping me to nail down my digital process. I was worried the stylized, cartoony look of the art would be at odds with the horror so by adding simple values and texture in Photoshop, I was able to give the comic a gritty feel. The expressive nature of the gestures, expressions and action help add intensity and emotion as well. I've talked a lot about my love of horror and about the research and analysis I've been doing of the genre, so it was quite a treat to finally "put my money where my mouth is'" and make some horror comics of my own.  Now that I've got a taste of what I can do in a short amount of time, I cannot wait to jump into the next one.

I'll wrap this all up by saying there is a high-res PDF version of this comic available on my new store at Gumroad, so if you'd like a nicer copy in its original formatting, head over there! Now, it's winter holidays so I should probably get back to work. I've got some serious relaxing comicking to do...

Friday, December 6, 2019


And with that, The Silo Run is wrapped! The colouring stage was a lot of fun, and I am quite pleased with the final result. Showing restraint in the final colour palette is always a challenge; there is always the temptation to use as many colours as possible! But I forced myself to stick to a simple complimentary palette, the major colours being red and green, with some yellow and orange hues thrown in there to balance between them. To ground the setting in a more realistic world, I kept the colours relatively desaturated. As things get more conceptual, as reality and physics begin to bend and break, I juiced up the saturation. I also exaggerated the ben-day dots and pushed the colours slightly-off register; a meta approach that reinforced the idea of the runner pushing the boundaries of time and space, breaking the borders of the comic itself.

Once again, the most challenging page was the spread on 10 and 11, with all the inset panels swirling around the runner. I had so many colours bouncing around that it was impossible to ficus on anything. So I kept revising it and simplifying the colour, especially in the inset panels, all in an attempt to keep it clear and readable.

But it's not just the colour palette that contributes to the final look. Because digital colouring can be too pristine, and lacking the warmth of analog media, I've been playing experimenting with half-tones and scanned textures. Combined with a slight "misalignment " of the BG colours, the effect resembles old-school comics and risograph printing. Hopefully this gives the story the texture and warmth I was looking for.

Though I had decided that I would use minimal text in this comic, I find myself rethinking it. My main worry was whether or not the storytelling was clear enough to build up to that final moment. I ran it by Natasha for a second look and we both agreed that it works as is. Heck, I may reassess that after a few more people look it over, but I that last line certainly carriers a lot of weight as the only spoken words in the story. I hope that it helps this positive message to resonate with readers.

I honestly can't remember where this idea came from, but it showed up in my brain pretty fully formed. It is one of my most personal stories and it felt really great to have the opportunity to bring it from abstract idea to fully formed story. 


Aw yeah, here it is, my fave stage of making comics: inks! While I usually keep my line work as minimal and expressive as possible, I took on the challenge of adding in extra detail and texture for this comic. The stye of our main character remains stylized and cartooney, but I took extra care to add an extra level of realism to the backgrounds and fabric. My hope is that by starting in a semi-realistic, grounded place, the jump to a conceptual world that bends the laws of reality and physics will be even more jarring and overwhelming; to emphasize the contrast and create a more engaging story.

This is easily one of the most complex and ambitious comic pages I've ever attempted. There were a lot of layers to play around with, and the abundance of special effects and insert panels demanded that I pay attention to every detail, for fear of losing readability. The intent of the comic would be completely lost if the reader wasn't able to focus on anything clearly.

I was also silently cursing past-Nick (the guy who did the thumbnails) because, while he did lay out the location and size of the inset panels, he didn't bother to draw what would be in them. Trying to come up with the content of all these insets was a challenge, especially at this late stage. But hey, I think it worked out.

It was at this stage that I officially decided to remove all planned text and dialogue (with the exception of the final line). I felt that the events were unfolding quite clearly and I wanted to leave a bit of ambiguity with regards to the story of the inset panels, allowing for some interpretation on the part of the reader, giving them space to bring a part of themselves to the narrative. I've invested some personal moments and emotions into this aspect of the comic, and my hope is that it is open enough for others to relate to some of it.


As days fly by at lightning speed, the end of the semester draws ever closer. Progress on my final comic slowed down a bit as I worked on my pitch for James Davidge, and finished up a 24 hour comic to debut at Thought Bubble (more on that in a future Interlude on the blog) but I jumped right back into things a few weeks ago and kept up a speedy pace.

My process for comic-making has been pretty consistent over the last few years, but using the iPad as my main tool has required some experimentation. The stage that messed with me the most was the "penciling" stage. Because I was working digitally, I was technically able to go straight from thumbnails to inks, but I found that I was already adding detail onto a page that hadn't been worked out. As a result, I was doing a lot of drawing and erasing and redrawing.  So I discovered that I still need a penciling stage, essentially a rough stage where I can work out the solid shapes and basic compositions before focusing on the detail.

As I was working on final inks, the size of the files prevented me from adding too many layers. This unfortunately meant that I had to delete some roughs to allow for layers of sound effects, and I really wish I had saved them beforehand. But I believe these six pages give a good idea of what the rough stage was like.

The roughs don't stray too far from the thumbnails but you can see how, at this stage, I am starting to resolve the figure (using lots of photo reference) refining my shapes and silhouettes, and essentially trying to get all of the thinking out of the way so that when I get to the final inking stage, I can drift off and work quick and simply enjoy the finishes, keeping it loose and savouring the details. 

Sound effects are starting to get dropped in at this stage.  Because I am starting to realize that the dialogue will be very minimal, I am really relying on them to create rhythm and texture, and to add an audio dimension to the story.

That's it for the roughs/penciling stage! I'm getting a really good sense now of what the final story will look like, as well as the pacing and emotional arc of the story. Now I've got to add the final lines to these images and keep pushing on towards the colours!