Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Customers have a choice, even if they are Fans too!

Buy the comics you like and ignore the rest.

I have noticed a few folks writing about this subject lately and thought I would just add my thoughts into the mix.

I think this is the only way to avoid a constant glut of below par material.

We hear all the time of folks buying all the titles of a particular character, whilst not enjoying the majority and yet doing so to avoid missing out on the continuity of the books. This is crazy when put into context.

If we were to buy one company’s food produce and yet didn’t eat some of it, because we didn’t like it – how long would this go on for, years? I doubt it…more likely we wouldn’t just buy that company’s other stuff, just because we thought “X” was delicious.

And yet year in year out we hear folks complaining about comic companies producing large quantities of below par comic books, in an attempt to control the market shelf space by forcing smaller companies off them, which can be done by the bigger publishers offering incentives and the like to distributors and retailers.

Rather than complain, wouldn’t it be better to abstain from buying the ones they didn’t like in favour of more that they do and ignoring this strange aberration called continuity.

That way the companies would be forced to get rid of those multiple titled runs for one single character or set of characters in the case of the team books.

It has always struck me as more than a little passing strange that companies allow their own products to compete with each other just to gain shelf space coverage, rather then have quality and cost effective sales for the consumer. Sure the companies wish to make as much revenue as possible, but at the expense of other titles under its banner and also at the risk of alienating folks from buying and collecting their other titles.

We all know that comic books are still and probably always will be a niche marketplace, and the fans have limited funds and so cannot follow, as they could in the past, every title put out by any individual company, due to the sixteen versions of that title’s hero per month, added to which are the multiple covers that occasionally adorn their inner pages.

In real terms this is how it works: Title “F” (I have used this moniker here so as to not find myself misconstrued and in court for libel) is the flagship and often the original version of the character(s). Then we are privy to the alternate titles of the same said character(s), “The incredible adventures of F”, “The wonderful “F”, The Return of F”, “The Mysterious F” and so on and so forth. Add to this, the crossovers between other titles published by the said company, trade paperback reprints, graphic novel one shots, specials and the like and suddenly the fan’s purse strings are struggling to keep up, that is if the fans need to eat and pay bills and keep a family, etc.

The trouble we see with this kind of bulk buying for the sake of it is that the comic companies continue to mass publish anything and everything, whether it sells or not to cover shelf space and in the midst of this many fans, feeling alienated by these actions, may decide to leave their reading and collecting days behind in lieu of pastures new, instead of missing the occasional gem in a sea of look-a-like titles.

If everyone votes by their buying habits, then this kind of marketing of quantity over quality will disappear and soon it will be easier to collect more varied works. As it stands, at present, until the consumer dictates what is published by only buying what is truly liked and not just buying all and sundry to fulfil continuity ideals then the market will remain glutted with below par comic books, and the gems will lie hidden amongst the look-a-likes.

Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…

February 27th 2007

Monday, February 26, 2007

TV is FUN Again!

It’s like the old days at last…

It’s been a while since I thought that the TV was fun to watch, in the old sense of the word. Last year saw the rise of a number of new series both here and in the states and this year is proving no different.

Some of the stuff I have been watching is:

“Life on Mars”, surely the best-written series, by a long ways, in years to come from the BBC. Great research by the creative team and also great acting – which all adds up to a terrific romp and keeps me in stitches at times!

“Primeval”, on ITV, surely the best ITV series again in years. This is how I personally think the new Dr Who and Torchwood series should have been written. I think this week’s episode should have had a fully flooded basement, but then again…like I said in an earlier Blog, sometimes we just have to remember it’s just meant to be fun.

“Supernatural”, I haven’t watched any of this second series and think I may have missed the first couple when recording them, although I hope not. I’ll be setting time aside this week to watch the episodes I have recorded though.

“Heroes”, my friend, John, who is also my accountant, told me about this series, having only read about it on the Internet. I was told it was a good series…he wasn’t wrong. I watched the first two episodes on the SciFi channel this week gone and it’s very well done.

Another, which John told me about I saw earlier this evening on Sky, called “The Dresden Files”, about a latter day Wizard called Harry, great move that, set in Chicago. This week’s episode “The Boone Identity” was interesting and I’ll certainly be watching next week’s.

A few great old movies showed over the weekend too, first off was, “The Knights of the Round Table”, with Robert Taylor as Lancelot and secondly, “The Devil Rides Out”, with Christopher Lee in the main role.

Well I need to catch up on work after watching this little lot so,

Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…
February 26th 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wow is it really almost a week ago…?

Reflections of yet another, more than manic, week.

Wow, time is really flying by so fast this year, I can’t believe it.

This week has seen me in a lot of meetings again. Some on the educational front with my course and some new ventures in the field and others to do with Wizards Keep ventures.

I have also been working on concept drawings for the new pending resin figurine product range. After all the sculptors need to know what the things have to look like. Hopefully these should be finalised shortly and then it’s off to the guys involved for them to mull over and tell me if there are any potential problems with brittle parts, etc, due to the design, which may need tweaking. Hopefully there won’t be too many, if any at all…and then we can start in production.

Over the weekend my wife, Margaret, and I have been trying to sort out the setting up of our first Wizards Keep retail outlet here in the UK. So a lot of our time was spent on the Internet sourcing glass cabinets and such and then out in the real world actually checking them out.

Margaret has been busy again producing some really nice items that will be on sale exclusively at the new outlet.

The next stage for me will be sorting and arranging for the production of all the graphics stuff – signage, POS, leaflets, information guides, labels, posters, etc, etc to be done. There’s still a lot of work to be done here and with the rest of the sorting out for the new outlet…but we’re getting there slowly.

For this week I will be finalising the turnarounds for the figurines and then continuing with the Worlds End graphic novel…and hopefully keeping up with the Blog…

Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…

February 25th 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

“Ghost Rider” The Movie – The Secret of Life?

Or, do we have to take things so seriously.

I have recently read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, passed on to me by my good friend and colleague, Charles Yoakum, regarding the forthcoming movie based on Marvel Comics’ Ghost Rider character, created in the early seventies by the incredible team of, Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Mike Ploog.

The piece begins; “It's fascinating to watch an actor who thinks he's in a good film when he's really in a bad one. Perhaps Nicolas Cage was trying to elevate "Ghost Rider" with the power of his performance. Or maybe he had no idea how silly his character would look when the special-effects people were done - as if someone poured lighter fluid on the skeleton from your seventh-grade science class.”

The article continues, pretty much in this vein throughout the article, condemning it and criticising it even before the movie hits the cinemas. It seems more than a passing strange that the article is speaking of a comic book character and not someone real and yet speaks also with a serious overtone throughout, as though some greater purpose has been lost to the world during the story’s telling.

Whoa…let’s hit the brakes a little here (Please pardon the pun). This is a comic book character and part of what makes them work is the ability to suspend one’s belief so that even the most incredible story will seem believable, but realistic…?

Come on guys, why do we have to do this?

I saw the trailer a while back and thought it looked like it was going to be great fun, and that’s the keyword – FUN!
Looks like some folks have forgotten all about that, according to the write-up.

Trouble, is that some folks look to be all serious about what we do...Some folks hate to admit we work in a kids entertainment industry, where the kids can be six or indeed sixty, but still have the capacity to enjoy a good tale.

Some folks have to intellectualise and pontificate about the "seriousness" of the work...Come on guys these are comics for goodness sake...and a hell-spawned biker with a flaming skull riding a motorbike???!!!

If you want serious, watch Schinder’s List or Gandhi, or The Muppet Movie…yeah, there’s that thing again, fun.

Ecch, speak to Mike Ploog and ask him if he was being serious when he designed the character back in the 70's...sheesh, no, he was having fun!!!

Later...and have fun yourselves!

Tim Perkins...
February 20th 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

BBC Radio Interviews, Conferences, Meetings, Networking and then a little sleep!

Reflections of a more than manic week.

Well Friday and Saturday were write offs for me with this blog, as my wife, Margaret and I didn’t return home until the early hours of Saturday morning.

Still despite the lack of sleep and rushing around, and the erecting and dismantling of the Wizards Keep exhibition stand more than once, whilst still trying to keep a perspective on the normal everyday goings on here, all in all, it was a very productive week.

The Wednesday evening interview on the radio seems to have attracted more folks to the website, so that was successful in itself. Nichola Dixon made me feel more than welcome down at the BBC and made the interview very enjoyable for me.

The conference on Thursday saw the company well received by other companies down in the midlands and from the south of England, which again is good for the profile of Wizards Keep. There was a great deal of interest shown in both the stand and the products on display, which is always great to see.

Friday saw me confirm and line up for definite several top-flight UK sculptors (the best and most respected in their field). So now we have the manufacturer and the sculptors in place. We are also nearer to finding the painters for the limited edition figurines. So we should be seeing ourselves going into production pretty soon with the new ranges. The manufacturer and the sculptors are all just as excited as we are here at Wizards Keep, which just makes things much more fun for everyone. More news as soon as I confirm things.

Yesterday and today have been spent, pretty much catching up with emails, paperwork and general stuff, setting up the coming week for a welcome return to the drawing board for me and the production of the Worlds End graphic novel.

Margaret is on with some very nice pieces for the launching of our first “real” retail outlet (again more of this as soon as we are ready to make an announcement – probably in late April, early May). These new pieces of work by my wife are showing a new and different side to her that even I haven’t seen before.

We are both very excited and these will be launched at the new outlet. Each piece is being hand crafted and the ones she has made, up to date, are incredible to look at.

So again, all in all, this year is starting out as planned with lots of new activity with the creation of new sections on the website, new products for sale (including Margaret’s), more regular information on the news pages from the Wizards Keep team and here on the Blog from the horses mouth so to speak, more promotional activity for the company during 2007, and me working at length on the graphic novel again. This just leaves the launch of the new Fantasy ceramics range and the limited edition figurines and we will be on target for achieving this year’s goals for 2007.

Tim Perkins…

February 18th 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Eventful day or what?

Or...Good grief is that the time already?

Well things have been so busy for me this Wednesday that there wasn't much time to come up with much of a musing. Which from the comments from some of you folks out there may be a small mercy, as the previous ones have been a tad lengthy at times.

First up were lots of general day-to-day business dealings. You know the kind of things I mean, emails, letters phone calls, faxes and then some.

Next up saw me drawing some turnaround concept artwork for the new range of resin figurines we are looking at producing here at Wizards Keep. These aren’t the finished ones, but were intended to get me into the swing of things and loosen me up a little, ready to work on the final versions.

Next up was the swapping of Valentines gifts with my wife, Margaret…and then it was off to the fantasy Art Course.

Next was this week’s Fantasy Art Course session, where we discussed some of the same subjects contained within my recent blogs. Some great work produced again by my students. I’ll have to post some pieces soon.

Then it was off to the BBC for an interview session with Nichola Dixon, who made me feel quite at home. I really enjoyed our little chat on the radio and as folks that know me will attest to, we overshot the allotted spot by fifteen minutes…well she did ask me questions to do with comics, my courses and art in general I suppose…

Despite this though, there were so many questions she never got around to, she may get me back in sometime…some folks just don’t learn…But seriously though if you read this blog, Nichola, thanks for the interview…I really enjoyed it and I had great fun.

Then when I got home it was time to eat…at last, with my good lady wife, Margaret, who had waited patiently for me to return home at long last…and she had continued working on some creative stuff for Wizards Keep during the evening…I can’t say too much, at the moment, but I will say, watch this space…it’s going
to be great!

One nice Indian take-away later and I had to prepare for tomorrow’s trip to the conference centre in Keele University Conference Park, where Wizards Keep are attending a networking event. It’s another opportunity to push the Wizards Keep brand and product range and there’s a three-course meal attached to the event, which will be nice…I’ve seen the menu…

When we return I have to arrange for yet another trip on Friday, this time to Derbyshire and a second networking meeting with the sculptors, painters and manufacturers that I spoke to in late summer last year. This time, however, Margaret is accompanying me and I hope to be closer to getting the figurines in production soon.

I would like to thank my youngest student on the Fantasy Art Unlimited, Lewis Costello, for his support during the radio interview, where he contributed to the online emailing sessions…Keep your eyes on this young guy…I think he’ll be HOT one day…in the not too distant future…again watch this space…

Tim Perkins…
February 14th 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Pixels Vs Pencils!

Has Digital Replaced Traditional?

I was recently given a couple of cuttings, by my Wife’s Aunty, from the Guardian newspaper, published here in the UK (within the last six months now is recent to me, with all the workload) and I thought I would share it with you all. If you have seen the pieces already, then please accept my apologies for perhaps going over old ground, but for those of you that haven’t, then I hope it’s of interest…

The main gist of the initial piece was that in the eyes of the author of the piece (an author in need of some original, traditionally produced art for the cover of her latest book at the design stage) the designers of the book cover, “like so many recent art school graduates were technologically nimble professionals that did not know how to draw.” Lionel Shriver wrote the piece in the 02.08.2006 issue of the Guardian. See I said I was suffering from “Tardis-itis”, yes things go by so fast at the moment, I just ask you to bear with me.

Anyhow the piece then went on to discuss at some length that unlike the past book covers Lionel had received on the books, which were hand painted (one of which involved painting the heads of the authors characters on the background of Henri Rousseau’s “The Dream”) would no doubt be produced now using photographs.

She then goes on to say that the second cover “used traditional artwork of a moon rock with two crossed drumsticks and a joyful splatter of paint”. All latter covers had subsequently capitulated to the computer in her eyes, however.

She then goes on to say that this problem is not exclusive to book covers, but is right across the board with designers of everyday objects now working in pixels, adding that, “the designers and artists of today don’t get chalk dust on their shirts, they don’t get paint under their nails.” There is further implication from her in the piece whereby the human warmth of the artwork is lost as the computer makes the work seem cold and lifeless.

The second piece written in response to this is by, Tom Jones of the University of Central England and goes something like this, “Whilst it is sad that Lionel Shriver cannot get designers to provide a hand-drawn cover illustration for her new novel, she mistakenly attributes the causes of her problem.”

He goes on to add, “Current design graduates do indeed know how to draw because they are still taught to do so. The problem is that current concepts and practices in drawing differ from the “funky folk art” view she propounds.” He uses this in parenthesis in direct quotation, although to my mind a little disingenuously, in response to her using remarks on “retro”, “Joni Mitchell” and “designers of yore creating their own funky folk art”.

After more explanations regarding today’s approach by designers he then ends his response to her earlier piece by saying, “This professional approach to drawing has nothing to do with mushily responding to “the tender, human feel of error”, nor does it necessarily produce beguiling watercolour images of everyday objects. Drawing constitutes a disciplined and hard-won skill in correlating hand, eye and critical judgement to create visual images in two dimensions.”

The uniqueness created by artists and their ability to draw things asymmetrically and “with error” are what differentiates between these creative skills utilised by human beings and those of the artificial intelligence used by the computer.

Life is not perfect and we are not used to seeing perfection in our visualisation of the world around us. The computer, however exists to create perfection, it is a mirror of its true self and is in fact in direct opposition to our viewpoint of the world. The computer cannot give mankind imperfection, unless programmed to do so.

Although on a lighter note, I would like to be reminded of this statement the next time a computer decides to throw its teddy in the corner and malfunction…just prior to deadline.

Now whilst both points of view are valid, they both argue around the garden path in my eyes. On the one hand we have an author saying she cannot find guys today that can draw traditionally and on the other we have a lecturer telling her that today’s students do indeed learn traditional drawing techniques but then argues against the case that there is human warmth in traditional skills and then almost dismissively states that these skills don’t have to make beguiling watercolour images, almost as if this is a demeaning thing to achieve.

Coming from the position of both artist/designer and lecturer I see the holes in both their arguments. As far as finding guys that can draw traditionally still, this is nonsense, if Lionel were meaning these skills have been lost over to the computer – but I feel this isn’t her real argument at all, but has received a response to it as one would expect in today’s art and design climate.

Had she approached artists or artists/designers, instead of as I suspect designers, then she would have found there are still guys like us that can work when the power goes down or the computer crashes. I don’t feel that she didn’t do this, however but is pointing out some truths to the piece.

This differentiation between artists, artist/designers and designers is certainly there for all to see and as I know lots of folks that would fit into one or the other category, I feel this validates the differentiation.

As Far as Tom is concerned he is defending the educational content of the argument. But his seeming disdain for the traditional ways seems a little harsh and I cannot for one second think that the beguiling artwork of the Pre-Raphaelites and such does not move him in any way, despite his implication to the opposite.

As a guy in the arts industries I see evidence all the time of guys leaving educational institutions with no traditional drawing skills, but that are wiz-kids on the computers. My experience through speaking to many lecturers from many such institutions is this; most graphics courses now contain almost (at best) no life drawing or traditional drawing training of any kind.

The only ways to learn these skills nowadays are to join life-drawing classes, external to the main course, do fine art (and even this is, in the main, the study of modern art techniques and not figurative ones, in the traditional sense of leaning the skills of the old masters) or study illustration after first studying one of the previous ones, preferably one in graphics.

The new graphics courses are filled with computer terminals and teach students how to work wonders on them. So there are elements of truth to both pieces, really, but I think the real truth lies with this: If someone is truly creative and has the traditional skills under the proverbial belt, then the transition to painting digitally is easier than if one was to train someone who is a wiz on the computer to control and manipulate “real” wet medium such as watercolours, oils, acrylics, etc, etc.

The trouble with a lot of today’s artwork done digitally and here I differentiate between 2D and 3D, which I am discounting from this particular Blog (not to be dismissive, but rather to create a difference between the technology knowledge levels and skills required) is exactly as Lionel puts it having no warmth, or feeling, or emotion to it. This is, I must point out here, not always the case, however, and is largely down to the skill level of the individual creative in question, as is always the case.

In a lot of cases designers, rather than artists, in the truest sense, are dependant on the capabilities of the computer, which lends a superficial air to its content often times and also causes it, in its perfection (please remember in the main, computers are perfect in their application) to lack soul and warmth and energy and in many cases to become formulaic.

Again, this is down to the individual artist/designer. Some can produce traditional and digital renditions, whilst others, and here I really do feel it is the case of the newly graduated, although not in all cases, that do not have these dual skills.

The reason for this is simple to me for any true creative to obtain these skills, just like Tom says in his piece, one must become disciplined and work hard to gain hard-won skills in correlating hand, eye and critical judgement to create visual images in two dimensions.

These skills are honed over many years, both studying and experimenting until they become second nature and as vital, natural and important as breathing. So the way I see it both guys are right, but both equally wrong. Some folks are adept at both digital and traditional, whilst others at one or the other. Neither makes for a better creative.

At the end of the day what is important is that the integrity of the artist/designer is kept and they are allowed to express themselves freely and without constraint, in the first instance. This enables them to explore as many avenues as possible, allowing them to find the absolute in their work, which in turn makes them each unique, rather than have manufactured, unemotional and none evocative artwork and designs that do nothing to either inspire or serve to make others think…

Tim Perkins…
February 13th 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


The quest to begin work again on my latest sequential artwork

When I decided to start up Wizards Keep in March 2005 it was the culmination of many years working for comic companies, book companies, theme park design consultancies and animation houses.

If truth were told, I had wanted to create a new company from being around sixteen years old whilst in the beginning of the sixth form in school, back in the mid-seventies. This is true even down to the name – Wizards Keep, although I decided on Limited rather than Productions, for the final name.

I spent about three months solid looking at website building companies, computers and the relevant high-end kit to accompany it. I checked on software and materials in fact everything and I did so using a really old computer we had bought the kids a few years earlier.

My laptop had decided to give up the ghost and I wanted to keep the SGI workstation I was using virgin to the Internet as I was still producing artwork on it. This was a good thing, however as I was forced to look at obtaining information, to set up correctly, using a really slow computer, with little memory (64Mb) and a small hard drive with a dial up connection, again with a 64k modem. Incredible now and that was only in 2005…I must have had the patience of a saint!

It enabled me to look at facts, however and instead of opting for a website full of heavy, flash graphics, instead I chose one that would download fast even on dial up. I was lucky enough to find SurfOcracy, the guys that built my website on the Internet and from checking out how quick both their website was and those of the clients they had built for already I knew I had found my team. The website was designed purely as an e-commerce site in the first instance and a platform for promotional purposes in the second.

Prior to this three months period I had begun work on my latest sequential strip-work. I had wanted to tell a story that I had begun in 1987 and decided to do this through the vehicle of a graphic novel, entitled “Worlds End”. The trouble with all this set-up was, there was no time left to work on it.

The whole point of setting up Wizards Keep was to create a vehicle on which to build a new company that would enable me to produce the book. I had already decided years ago that if ever I were to do this I would look at the possibilities of manufacturing and publishing as well as producing many different routes of merchandising to carry the company forward.

In actual fact the building of the website, the computer systems, the sourcing of all these and the buying of them, plus the creation of all the promotional art, graphic design, all the promotional write ups, the endless meetings with financial people, funding agencies, banks, network meetings, the creation of the Sketch Books, Giclee Prints, Posters, Bookmarks, etc, etc, as the list went on and on and on and on, just went on to make it nigh near impossible to get back on with the one reason I had set up in the first place, that being the production of the graphic novel.

It was just after the New Year this year that I returned to work on it, having thought this would happen before Christmas. It was weird; it was as though I had never been away. A strange thing happens when you create a story from scratch like this. The characters take on a life of their own and the story begins to write itself. The characters become living breathing entities to you, as you watch them live their lives and grow as people. I began work again telling the tale of these folks that I have come to look on as friends now.

It’s a great feeling to be back behind the drawing board, after all this time. I still have some commissioned work to get out the door soon, but the fact that the main work for me this year, is the production of my first graphic novel in the Worlds End series is very fulfilling.

At present I am just over a quarter way through the pencils for the first book. The title to it is Worlds End – Riders on the Storm. It tells the tale of an alien invasion of a world that has long since lost any warring tendencies, much to their chagrin when the invasion host alight upon their world. Then it is up to a tiny misfit band of lovable folks to repel the invading forces known as, the Aoevill.

I have posted some examples of the artwork, showing different pages of pencils in my news pages on the Wizards Keep website. I plan to get the full book pencilled and then I will begin working on the digitally painted colours, much along the lines of the Worlds End Poster, which came out in mid-October 2006. I will post snippets up to the news pages as I go along towards its completion and I will add to this Blog, with updates here too, from time to time.

It’s nice to return home to my creations…but I feel I have left them in limbo long enough now and I need to see if I can help them in their dire predicament…

Tim Perkins…
February 11th 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Luck of The DRAW!

At last we are promoting the arts as a valid career option.

The job I have, as a creative person, is a very privileged one. It enables one to meet and work with a great many talented and like-minded people. It also enables one to travel the world with work.

That said there is also the side with the egotists, but this is far outweighed by the people that are both talented and humble too.

Nowadays I am trying to link my career in the arts with that of my role as a lecturer on Fantasy Art and the arts in general. There are a great many talented people out there waiting to be discovered.

Back in the days when I was being educated at school we didn’t have the beauty of information technology and the Internet, created on the digital highways that we see today. The only way to obtain knowledge back then was through teachers at school, books and through Libraries and Museums.

Back then however, in my experience and that of many of my peers to which I have spoken many times on the subject, art was pretty much taught in a vacuum. In my case I was lucky enough to encounter two teachers with the passion and enthusiasm that one comes to expect from creative people.

Unfortunately one of them never really taught me, only acting occasionally as a stand in when the main teacher was off ill or some such. I was lucky, however and was taught, albeit only for a short period of time (maybe nine – twelve months in full total) in my third year at senior school, prior to studying for my GCE exams, as they were called back then, by one such teacher with a magnetic enthusiasm far beyond that, that I had become accustomed to.

The teacher in question was a gentleman called Mr. Richard Reeves, and I will be forever in his debt. I remember one sunny Wednesday morning in morning reception (Mr. Reeves was my registration teacher also) being asked to stay behind for a few moments after registration. I nervously wracked my brain, trying hard to think of what I may have done wrong.

He asked me what I wanted to do when I left school. I told him I wanted to become a commercial artist, as we were called back then, and draw comic books. From that moment on he strove to give me confidence and was the only teacher within school to sit down and show me how to do things and also what to be looking for…priceless.

I would not see this again until I entered art college a few years later, after my time spent in the sixth form. Up until Mr. Reeves coming on board at school (and this became the norm again following his leaving for pastures new) no one had done this.

My parents had gone along to the parents evenings, as do we all at some point if we have children of our own, to be politely told, “Don’t worry, Mr. And Mrs. Perkins Tim will grow up one day and get a real job!” My parents have always backed me to the hilt and the fact that they had to suffer this indignity was wrong, but it never phased their faith in me to follow my chosen career path.

I have never understood how an institution that is supposed to create an air of confidence and fulfilment can expect this to be the case with this kind of attitude towards a career that was not of the norm. Did they seriously think that the drawings just appeared on the page and that no human created this stuff, it was just printed?

I was often told that a guy from a small town in the north of England would never be able to draw comic books or indeed become an artist. Well I did grow up and I did get a real job…it was the one I had wanted since I first decided on my career path at the tender age of eight years old.

I have often been quoted in print as saying “What does it matter if a kid turns around and says - I want to be an astronaut?” If the kid does, then everyone will congratulate him or her for doing so…and if not then what the Ecch…it was bit of fun and did no harm. Not everyone will achieve their dream, we all know that, but what harm is therein trying, isn’t that what education and life is all about?

As I have said though, back then I think that art was taught, in the main, in a vacuum as something that just happened to be on the curriculum and that one could get exams in if one wanted. Art wasn’t a serious subject to be given any serious consideration as far as having a career in it, other than maybe getting a job in a textile company or Museum.

Thankfully those days are long gone and now in the UK at least there is a big move towards the arts and large amounts of funding are now being given to educational bodies and local government to both promote and create jobs within the creative sector.

You only need to open your eyes at any given time, on any given day, anywhere you would like to choose and you will see something that was either created by, conceptualised by, or made by an artist or a designer or both. In this era of designer clothing, great architectural achievements, branded goods, multimedia extravaganzas, SFX laden films, animations and video games, etc, etc, we see examples of this all the time.

The world has become aware of art and design, suddenly. Monies are being ploughed into artistic ventures and it has become acceptable within educational circles that art and design are not just required by society, but vital to it’s continued growth.

As such these new movements endorsed and funded by the government in the UK, whereby the arts are being promoted and used as a vehicle to raise, confidence, expectations, skill levels, achievements (either academic or practical) is a great thing to have happening presently. As such it has been noted that not everyone achieves the same A*s but all can attain results to the best of their abilities.

For some the arts will become a career, to others a pastime to enjoy either as a hobby sought out alone or else within a group situation. But what does it matter as long as the keywords are fun and enjoyment?

Schools are now finding that by closely working with local government agencies, local colleges and creatives, pupils expectations grow, following on from the same growth in their confidence, which leads to greater self respect, again leading this same respect being applied to their peers, teachers and environment – no mean feat, when one considers the nightmare world the media portrays to us all each day and night on the news on TV and in the newspapers.

They say you learn by example and I really believe this to be true. I feel that my career path and the educational one, which lead up to its beginnings in 1980, for me have served to strengthen my beliefs in both equality and in giving everyone the same respect and chance to follow their dreams.

If we suppress creativity and dreams, then would we have the wonderful things we have today? Without creativity and dreams we would not have science, we would not travel beyond our planet, we would not have the ability to look beyond the farthest horizon and wonder…

Tim Perkins…
February 9th 2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A new movement in Comic Art!

Or a shifting of the creative goalposts.

For a while now there have been many both working within the comic industry and those collectors or fans looking at similar scenarios from without, bemoaning the fact that no-one is buying comics any more, kids aren’t reading comics anymore, there are no longer any of the short-lived royalties being paid because they don’t sell, page rates have fallen dramatically for most creatives and so on and so forth.

Whilst all these facts have an element of truth about them I think the opposite of this negative and quite depressing scenario is being slowly and surreptitiously side stepped by a great many creatives.

More and more of us are putting ourselves in a position not dissimilar to those encountered by the writers and artists in the start-up of the American comic industry some sixty or seventy years ago, whereby they bandied together to form workshops, providing the publishers with finished products, therefore keeping some kind of editorial and creative control on the comics they produced.

The advent nowadays of information technology and the Internet, along with massive advances in digital technologies for the artist and designer has meant that one can now (not without a lot of investment, it has to be said though) set up and become independent of the “mainstream” publishers.

The astronomical costs of doing so previously to this were such that mega-money was needed to set up in the first place. Computer equipment, vital in today’s production and for the running of websites and generating worldwide sales is much cheaper to purchase than it was ten - fifteen years ago, and the size of the machines and what they can handle is also far superior.

Print costs have reduced in recent times both digital and lithographic as printers strive to keep their presses from becoming idle. Production values are far greater than at any other time previous to nowadays and standards have risen so high that for less cost, greater competition for the big guns is quite easily achieved.

In the past a larger staff would have to be employed, whereas now a smaller group of people can handle the artwork, retail, packaging, distribution, and administration sides of the company, leaving time open for meetings, funding acquisition, and conventions and festivals, etc.

The downsized production and retail/distribution teams mean that this too keeps costs down, giving better funds to the company to pay better salaries to obtain, in return, far better productivity and pride in their work through a joint venture approach, whereby everyone’s part is equally important.

Virtual shops complementing the “real” shops help with the generation of sales. Whilst one of the single most important advances in recent years is the ability to network with a far greater immediacy than was previously possible. Email, added to faxes and traditional snail mail give the company far more effective strategies to fulfil the criteria needed to obtain information, give information and increase sales.

The days of the lone writer or artist/designer are long gone. Information travels fast nowadays and one hopes it is positive when it arrives. So if industry practise is suddenly abusive somewhere in the world, everyone in the industry knows, as does the public. Equally if someone is looking for or seeking to give employment, there are a multitude of avenues, forums and other websites to gleam the information from.

So, far from being a depressing time in the comic industry, I see it as a time of change, a side stepping of the goalposts, of taking over creative control again from the constraints enforced by the mainstream publishers in their aim to, understandably, protect their franchised, licensed, intellectual properties.

As a singer once said (Bob Dylan – to be precise) “The times they are a’changing!” Exciting times, albeit challenging ones. A time to be truly creative, remembering unlike our sister art field – the movie industry – the only limitation to our budget is one of time and not cost, although spending a month on one panel may knock that statement into a proverbial well cocked hat.

The changes coming from the creatives are happening whether the big guns either like it, know of it, or indeed care about it. The worst thing in the world for a creative person is to work alongside a wannabe creative, with the power to enforce changes to styles, content, etc and without either just or needed cause…simply because they can.

The movement in the background is just starting, but mark my words, wait and see what’s coming…Already there are signs from creatives all around the globe and the work they are producing is already far better then that inside the mainstream, and in some cases being produced by those that have yet to appear in print, at least in the mainstream.

Exciting times indeed, as Jack “King” Kirby put it…”in the world that’s coming…”

Tim Perkins...
February 10th 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Reading Comics - What a Graphically Novel idea!

Comics and Graphic Novels - The Misconception

I have always believed that comics and now graphic novels have had the ability to teach children and folks that have never learnt to read to do so. Throughout my time in the education system, of which I am now a part of, in a small way, I came to realise that the teachers looked at comics as a reading material for those in society of only a semi-literate non-academic bearing. I think this has also been true of the perceptions of the general public too.

Comics, in these terms, equate to kids humour comics and at best only serve as juvenile entertainment, with a mountain of custard pies being thrown and slapstick humour throughout their covers. To most people this is what comics are about. Even with the advent of the big budget comics related films, now being produced in the last thirty or so years, the general public’s view of even this superhero genre has just been of men in tights – or spandex as we now call their costumes.

This is not the true nature of comics and their sequential art and in fact has never been true. Newspapers used to have adventure strips in their pages. Titles such as, Prince Valiant and Tarzan from the USA and Garth and Jeff Hawke from here in the UK, amongst many others, abounded. Starting in the late nineteen seventies the actual space in the newspapers used for the strips began to be cut back and then shrunk until there is now hardly any action and adventure strip work produced at all.

The only real chance of producing strip work nowadays for the syndicates is to work on a humour strip. But it was the people buying the papers that were reading the adventure strips; James Bond and Modesty Blaze are two other high profile characters that spring to mind. The children only read the strips when Mum and Dad came home with their newspapers, handing the strip pages over to their children.

My own views and those of most folks working in the business of comics and now graphic novels is, however quite different. This is not down to a need to prove their worth, but rather a true understanding of the nature of their construction and of the teaching and learning values of storytelling techniques. The exact same kinds of techniques are used in producing novels, children’s books, magazine features, film, television and theatre scripts, etc, etc.

Humans have created and listened in awe to stories from the dawn of mankind using language to communicate…we now read these stories as myth and legends, faerie tales, even books of a religious nature.

The storytelling tradition started even before mankind began to write them down, firstly as pictures, which developed into the hieroglyph form and later into the alphabets and scripts used throughout the world today. These early stories were passed on orally from generation to generation by the storytellers of the time. Some of these stories served as morality pieces, whilst others kept the status quo with the adult population and also with children too, helping to enforce the rules of the time with tales of what would happen if they were not adhered to.

As mankind has become more academically minded the books and works of fiction and fact have become increasingly sophisticated. This added to the fact that children are perceived, as going through a process of education is partly to blame for the misconception that comics and now graphic novels are all just juvenile entertainment.

If one looks at some of the language used in say the humour comics of the UK, whilst it could be argued the language is quite simply used, with only an occasional use of a “big” word, it cannot be denied that the child reading the comic is doing just that…reading.

This is exactly what is needed to educate and the fact that it is a comic and not a book is irrelevant, as the child in question is reading and thus still being educated. If this is encouraged, eventually the child will wish to read and thus learn more and will move on to books and the older readers comics and graphic novels for the older readers.

From my experience as a pupil at junior school and then my early life in secondary school I remember reading such words as Genocide, Benevolence, Malevolence, Maniacal, Metamorphosis, Metaphysical and many more. Now for a kid between the ages of say 8 –12 that’s not bad, to say that they were contained in the pages of comic books. They certainly helped me when writing work for my English language and literature classes, whilst at school.

All this said, at long last there seems to be an increasing amount of academics and indeed the general public that are coming around to the fact that, like my fellow creators and myself, they too see the as to yet unused potential of the sequential art form, now known as comics and graphic novels.

The sheer volume of books now being bought in this digital age, where we are constantly told by governments and educators that literacy, numeracy and obesity are rife in our society, proves that they are succeeding in engaging the reader. Graphic novels have grown as a part of the book buying marketplace so much in the last few years that even book shops like WH Smith, Borders, and Waterstones, to name but a few in the UK, have taken notice and now have large sections of their stores dedicated to these new books. Now even more welcome is the fact that libraries are also seeing the vast merit of this area of reading.

Manga, comic books from Japan, are increasingly being read by the youths of today, outside of Japan, with a larger split in favour of girls reading them. Something we don’t see as much with American comics. Manga like originated western graphic novels are being increasingly added to the reading lists of libraries and bought by an ever-increasing amount of young girls and women. Graphic novel reading groups are sprouting up all over, as this growing section of the world’s book marketplace garners more and more interest.

At last the mere fact that pictures accompanying the words (part of the reason for the popular misconception that they are for kids only) and the dual standards that it is okay for adults to look at non-fiction books containing pictures and newspapers, which rely heavily on photographs and pictures to convey the message across to their readers, is now being reanalysed.

There is a place for the less wordy humour and early learning comic book alongside the storybooks we all know and love. There is also a place for the more wordy comic adventure books and graphic novels. With all the myriad genres and age ranges we now stand at the edge of a plateau looking out over the marvellous vistas that beckon from beyond. Whilst most people will never visit certain parts of this world and indeed any of the others that lie in deep space many miles from us on our piece of rock these comics and graphic novels give everyone the opportunity to do so.

If the young reader or indeed anyone unable to read at a later stage of life is given the opportunity they too can be given this freedom. To deny this is a worse case of cruelty against ones fellow man. Age and ability should hold no sway in this and in fact the opposite should be the case as we try to encourage everyone to read and visit these far away places or even our own doorstep.

I leave you with this thought, imagine if you are a reader and you were to suddenly never have been able to read, what wonders you would miss out on…no Treasure Island, no Robin Hood, no King Arthur, no War of the Worlds, no Little Women, no Peter Pan, no Wizard of Oz, no Anne of Green Gables, no Gulliver’s Travels, no Lord of the Rings, no Kidnapped, no Snow White, no Rip Van Winkle, no Robinson Crusoe, no Alice in Wonderland, no Christmas Carol, no Sherlock Holmes, no Tarzan, no Wind in the Willows, no Macbeth…

The above list has not even dented the full list. There are some people that through no fault of their own have been denied these things…if comics and later graphic novels enable them to change this and let them too see the wonderful worlds within, who are we to deny them that right…

Tim Perkins
November 3rd 2006