COMICS, STRIPPING, MAGIC LEAPS & MORE
THE COMIC BOOK YEARS
My journey to comic book artist is a well trodden path. I started reading comic books in the mid 1970s, reading anything and everything that I could get my hands on. My gateway drug was the british humour comics. In need of a stronger fix, I moved onto british action adventure weeklies, which led to mainlining Marvel UK reprints and the inevitable spiral into the Marvel and DC monthlies imported from the US. I literally had a dealer who would feed my habit by sending me monthly mail order boxes. I loved the stories and was obsessed by the art, drawing and copying comic book characters endlessly. I don’t remember a time I didn’t want to be a comic book artist. All I did was draw and then draw some more.
I was a determined and persistent would be artist rather than naturally gifted. But not one to let a lack of ability hold me back, from the age of 16 I started getting the bus to London, armed with my portfolio of crude scribblings. In true whirlwind fashion, it only took another six years of repeatedly turning up unannounced at publishers doors, to land my first gig in the late 80’s. An editor at the Marvel UK offices, who’s turn it was to go through the, by now, twice yearly ritual of looking through my portfolio, recognized the astonishing talent that had somehow been missed on all those previous visits and offered me my first gig. I was to draw a strip for Action Force, which is basically GI Joe with a british accent. I later learned the regular artist had quit that morning and the comic was running hideously late. Basically just holding a pencil upright was qualification enough.
Once I was in though, I wasn’t about to give up the opportunity and I hauled my way up the greasy pole of comic bookery eventually drawing monthly books for Marvel and DC. Over a 15 year career, drawing pretty much all the characters I grew up reading.It was an amazing ride and for the most part an absolute blast. Being a comic book artist though is not a life of champagne and caviar. I had adroitly timed my career to start just after the comics boom when sales we’re in the toilet. And it could be a slog cranking out weekly and monthly stories, navigating the politics and always hustling for the next gig. One day soon, maybe here, I’ll tell a few war stories of my life in the comic book trenches.
BIRTH OF A COMICSTRIPPER
Drawing comics were, are and always will be fun but I wanted to do more than the monthly deadline grind. And so, on the side, started a small studio designing and creating comic book content for advertising and marketing. My eyes were opened to a world that appreciated the value an artist and writer can bring to a project and would pay accordingly. And so to fund my lavish excesses of a family, assorted animals and a mortgage, I transitioned over to the wider commercial art world.
In a moment of hangover induced inspiration/madness on new year’s day 2000, I christened my new studio The Comicstripper and set about building my empire. Having a knack for drawing in multiple styles, some may have had the impression of multiple artists working for the mighty Comicstripper Studio, whereas the reality was me pencilling furiously.
As the business grew though I moved to a creative director role and took on other artists both in house and freelance.
The studio was primarily a creative service house, developing characters and stories for a multitude of uses.
We worked a lot in the character licensing world and it was a revelation to see Comicstripper art popping up everywhere. It got me thinking. I would see something created for a flat fee used and reused endlessly. There was gold in them thar hills!
And so Comicstripper Creations was launched. Developing our own character based IP for license. We were learning as we went along and I fell in love with the world of licensing. My plan was to continue to build this side of the studio and transition away from the client service work.
THEN IT GOT WEIRD
In 2012 a new client called. He was looking to develop some custom comics featuring his own IP.
This client (let’s call him Rony because that’s his name) had a dream to do something amazing. He wanted to create a groundbreaking wearable technology to change the way we interact with our world and populate it with realtime living, always present creative content.
And the first step was comic books (it seemed to make sense at the time).
The next few years were a non drug fuelled head trip!
Somehow, I’m still not sure how, I ended up moving from Wales to Florida, bringing my team with me. We lived and worked in the future at the most exciting and creative tech company on the planet, Magic Leap.
I got to run a multi discipline content studio full of amazingly talented people working together to bring to life mind blowing and multi award winning content and to imagine the world we’re going to one day live in. And every day I see more and more of what we dreamed about, happening.
I was lucky enough to be there at the beginning when the whole company could sit around one table. It’s great at the beginning of an adventure when there are few rules, just possibilities and lots of ice cream. It’s inevitable though that as the company grows, first by tens, then hundreds, then to a couple of thousand, it’s going to change. And my day to day life also changed. I went from being a hands on creative to rarely lifting a pencil for a few years. I took on an executive role and learned a whole new set of skills. I learned so much from so many people and grew in ways I never expected. And I got to see from the front lines how a multi billion dollar company operates. I loved my role and the incredible people I worked with but I didn’t get much opportunity for personal creative expression beyond doodling in my notebook in a meeting.
Then Covid 19 happened and the company made some hard but understandable choices. It’s focusing on the technology and has moved away from the creative exploration that I and my team specialized in. You can guess the rest.
SHEEP AND ART
I’m now back in the UK looking out at a field full of sheep and about as far away from the world of technology as you can be. And I’m excited!
I’m back at the drawing board creating characters, worlds, and stories.
This website is the beginning of my next big adventure. It’s the window into TAOA Studios and will grow and change considerably over the coming months as I challenge myself creatively and build a team to deliver world-class content for clients and partners.
I have big plans and I hope you’ll stick around to see it all unfold.