The Obligatory 2015 Review Blog Post!

So, it's that time of year again, where I talk myself into writing another "year in review" blog post and make vague promises to myself that I won't do it again next year.

2015 has - like last year - been a pretty mixed bag, it has to be said. I've tried hard to learn from the mistakes I made in 2014 (and the ones I made this year) and to continue to try and make a conscious effort to grow and change as a person. It hasn't been a barrel of laughs, and at times, it's felt like I've taken one step forward and two steps back. I've struggled with some darker moments, I won't lie, but I'm also very aware that most of it stemmed from that crushing lack of self-confidence in my writing (and everything else) and that most people would think I was looking for my ego stroked if I talked to them about it and explain why I was feeling down as much as I have been.

Right now, though, I feel like - for better or worse - I'm on a path...somewhere and there's no turning back. Well, not without burning a lot of bridges, anyway.

I Wanna Be Elected!

So, 2015 saw a General Election happen and the Tories take full control of running the country (which, let's face it, they were when they were in coalition). On the bright side, though, I can wheel this out for another year:

So, we're stuck with them until 2020, when they will no doubt be voted back into power - although, at that point, I imagine they'll have privatised the entire country and systematically wiped out anyone daring to be born poor. Y'know, the usual Tory policies.

On the lighter side, the election did give me and my art monkey Bryan Coyle (along with letterer Bolt-01) the chance to do a little something in conjunction with the 2000AD fanzine, in the shape of the "Zarjaz Daily" At The Polls:
The strip was pulled together in a really short space of time (we wanted to run it in the last week before the election, because we're shameless), but it went down a storm - and got us our second consecutive nod in the 2000AD Thrill Mail. It also pretty much set out where we stand politically, in case anyone was in any doubt.

You can read all 10 episodes of At The Polls here.

Believe it or not, that was our second consecutive "Dredd Daily"; we actually preceded it with the monstrous 19 (!) part When I Say JIMP:

This was a re-write of a short joke strip that really wasn't all that funny, and I learned a valuable lesson from doing it (other than I'm not that funny a writer, I mean). I kind of approached the story with only a vague idea of where it was going, rather than any kind of neatly laid out plan, which let the whole thing balloon out of control a little. In contrast, the story for At The Polls was meticulously laid out before scripting - but that was largely to keep everything on track, given the short space of time we had to pull everything together.

Still, my hat has to go off to Bryan for pulling When I Say JIMP together in the time we gave him, and making it uniquely his own in the process. I think we were all surprised, though, that it ended up being the inspiration for the "monthly art competition" on the 2000AD forums back in April.

Anyway, you can read the entire When I Say JIMP serial here.

While I'm on the subject of these Zarjaz Dailies, the Summer saw me and Bolt-01 be joined by Paul Moore for a Rogue Trooper serial, Infested:
This was a conscious effort to break away from just doing Dredd serials and try something new with the daily strips. It was, I think, the third daily strip I actually wrote, and I was still trying to find my groove with the scripting process (and I think it shows a little), but Paul pulled it all together beautifully. He brought a grittiness to it that suited the story perfectly, and I have no qualms about saying that it would've been a perfect fit on a proper Rogue Trooper series.

Paul and I have two new shorts in the pipeline, one of which is for FutureQuake, while another is being kept under wraps for the time being. In the meantime, you can read all of Infested here.

And, because it was Christmas, myself and Bolt-01 dived into a Christmas story featuring everyone's favourite future law enforcement officer:

Through necessity, the whole thing was written in about 45 minutes - looking at the script, it shows! - but Bolt-01 pulled it all together beautifully and got it out for Christmas Eve. I couldn't ask for a better final strip of 2015, frankly.

You can read all of Dashing Through The Snow here.

Hey, Kids! MORE Comics!

There was a lot of comic-y related stuff going on in 2015, but most of it I can't really talk about it (well, OK, I can, but I don't really want to, as most of it didn't pan out the way I hoped and some of it doesn't make me come out looking good), but it brought a lot of things into focus for me, the key one being that I need to acknowledge and accept where I've been going wrong rather than just ignore it and wonder why I'm not getting anywhere.

Anyway. This year's been pretty solid for seeing work in print. It all kicked off with Part Of The Process, a strange collaboration with Jim Lavery.

I talked about this last year, but Jim had a bunch of artwork he couldn't use after a collaboration fell through, so he asked me to write a new script to go with it. I was kind of surprised that no one noticed "the joins" in the process, but I'm going to take it as a job well done.

And that wasn't the only collaboration with Jim this year...

End Of The Road was a weird, off-beat post apocalyptic story that Jim brought to beautiful, vibrant life, that quickly became my favourite collaboration with him.

Working with Jim is always a joy, but sketching out this weird little world and then have him add meat to its bones was a whole lot of fun - and I'm pleased to say we'll be back together in the pages of Zarjaz, with a new Judge Dredd tale, The Boys Next Door. We've also got a longer project in the works, too - or it would be if I could get the script written...

Anyway, Part Of The Process was in FutureQuake #26 and End Of The Road was in FutureQuake #27, both of which are still available from the FutureQuake Webshop, priced £4.00 each (+shipping). And FutureQuake #26 is now available via Comixology, priced £1.49! So, y'know, go buy 'em.

This year also saw two long gestating shorts for Zarjaz see print. Judge Dredd: Video Nasties (art by John Hutcheson, letters by Bolt-01) and Rogue Trooper: The Walking Dead (art and letters by James Newell) popped up in Zarjaz #24 and #25 respectively.

James and I will be back together for an ABC Warriors tale next year (which I'll talk about closer to the time), but earlier this year, I managed to get back to The Mek-Nificent Seven with one of my favourite collaborators, Alfie Gallagher.

Red Spice was a genuine pleasure to work on and - hard as it is for me to accept - something I'm actually quite proud of. It was, in a lot of ways, a watershed moment for me, because it was something I'd never tried before: telling a story with a large central cast. It was tricky, balancing everything and giving everyone "screen time", but I think I pulled it off, and I was glad I actually let Alfie talk me into doing it.

I could spend the rest of this post heaping praise on Alfie for his work on this, and how beautifully expressive his pencils are and how amazing the finished pages are, but I already did that, so here's the pin-up he did to promote the story:
Alfie and I started the year with a collaboration on a Judge Anderson tale for Zarjaz, The Line Of Duty. As I said at the time, he pretty much blew everyone away with his work on it and then went on to floor us with this rather lovely promotional pin-up:

That picture is respectfully dedicated to artist Brett Ewins, who sadly passed away earlier this year. 

Anderson, Psi Division: The Line Of Duty was featured in Zarjaz #23 and ABC Warriors: Red Spice was in Zarjaz #25, both of which are available from The FQ Webshop, priced £3.00 (plus shipping).

While a lot of stuff I worked on with my regular partner in crimes against comics is - for the minute - destined to languish in a drawer, we did manage to throw out a few collaborations.

Apart from the aforementioned daily Dredd strips, we put out a short for Halloween called The Next Life, an odd little tale that we threw together in a pretty short space of time - and which you can read here for free!

Confirmed for 2016, though, is a brand new Judge Anderson story, The Long Way Home - and, just because, here's a sneaky peek:

Melody Calls

Also for Halloween, I bit the bullet and got back to writing a some prose in the shape of a short story called Melody.

Doing it proved to be cathartic in a number of ways (most of which I'm not going to go into, because, unlike our current government, I do actually value my privacy) and kind of re-ignited my passion for writing prose.

I was pretty happy with how Melody turned out (although I was less happy with the sales of it, but, hey), and I was even happier when Bryan did this rather lovely cover for me:

I should point out that that's the never before seen wrap around cover, that, unfortunately, I couldn't use because of the horrible restrictions Amazon place on their ebook formatting.

If you want to know more about the story, well...

When his fiancée puts their engagement on hold, Paul Grant finds himself whisked off to the town of Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands for a short golfing holiday to try and get his mind off everything. But when he meets Melody, the wife of the hotel owner, Grant finds himself embarking on a strange and sinister affair...

Melody is currently available to buy from Amazon, and - for all you non-Kindle owning people as a PDF from Gumroad.

Back in April, I also helped..."restore" a section from an old 80's toy tie-in comic called War Cars that Bryan decided to write, draw and put out himself scan and put up for sale. He asked me if I could help him "scan" a text story for the collection, which I dutifully did, and, y'know, had some fun in the process.

You can read the whole story here, but you're probably better off reading it in the context of the original comic, War Cars: Collected, which is available from Comicsy now.

Out Of The Past...

One thing that's been floating around the back of my head these last few months is how aware I am of the cock-ups I've made over the course of the year, both personally and in work. I got a chance to put some of it down on "paper" in a more coherent way when Colin Smith offered me a chance to do a piece for his newly resurrected blog, on things I wish I'd known before I started this writing lark.

We all make mistakes, that's just a fact of life, but it's what we do about them is the key thing. We can, if we so choose, learn from them and try and become better for them, even though we live in the age of social media, where your mistakes can be dug up with a quick Google search and thrown back in your face. I get it that we do actually live in a Randian world where A is A and what we say online is who we are, and there's no room for context or subtlety, but should we be bound to our pasts in such a way? Social media does give us mere mortals the opportunity to control the narrative of our own lives in a way that's never been possible before (but that, I think is a discussion for another time), so why not use it?

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that toward the end of the year, I became more determined to move forward and not let myself be mired in my own past - which is not to say I'll ignore it, but I've changed and I want to move forward, regardless of what anyone else thinks I should do. Which leads me into...


So, 2016, then.

All I'm sure about for the new year is that I need to concentrate on making this writing thing work. I've come too far to let it go without a fight, but I'm also painfully aware of how you can work your bollocks off, do everything right, and still get nowhere. It's the gamble you have to take, I know, but it's weird actually acknowledging that and having it sit in the back of your head, constantly making you second guess and over analyse everything. It's also as about as fun as it sounds.

But, like I said at the top of this post, I'm on a path somewhere and there's not a lot of options for turning back (it's more like go forward or get off and do something else). I wouldn't say I'm filled with excitement heading into the new year, but I'm not exactly filled with dread either. All I know is that I need to keep moving forward through January, then maybe take stock and see where I'm at and start making some hard decisions.

Which is a slightly ominous note to end this on...

And Finally...

2015 was pretty great for music, it has to be said, but two albums stood out for me. Sleater Kinney's return, No Cities To Love, became one of my most played records and re-ignited my love of the band in the process. My personal favourite track on the album, though, is this:

The other album of 2015 for me was New Order's return, Music Complete, which pretty much just remained on repeat for about a month straight.

And on those tuneful notes, it's time to watch 2015 stagger off into the sunset...
The Obligatory 2015 Review Blog Post! The Obligatory 2015 Review Blog Post! Reviewed by Unknown on 10:30 am Rating: 5
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