Now and then, Voyager

“The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted.
Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.”

Walt Whitman

What has this poem to do with anything?

Walt Whitman
Everything actually.

I watched the classic movie “Now, Voyager” the other day. It’s a first rate Warner Brothers melodrama starring Bette Davis, about a plain spinster who seems to have all the odds stacked against her. She goes through a transformation, psychological and physical… the epiphany being that you don’t have to follow the rules set by so called society. What the outer world deems success may not be your version at all.

So here’s the latest on my own eclectic journey.

It’s been a pretty busy and varied week here… cooking on all the creative hobs!

Last Sunday, Bob (my accountability partner… more on that in another blog) and I attended our first Stoke Con Trent Comic and Celebrity convention at Staffordshire University campus. I found myself straddling the two worlds of acting and comic creating as I experienced last time at MCM Birmingham. The ‘Mags‘ banner went up so there was a gentle reminder as to ‘Who‘ I was in case the intervening years had changed me!

My lovely friend Sophie ‘Ace’ Aldred was next door to me with Trev and Simon… promoting their podcast show “Strangeness in Space“. On the other side of me was a lovely fellow James McKenzie, known for his role in the tv children’s series “Raven” (something my kids were watching a few years ago). I had barely set up my stall when there was a flurry of activity as people were coming up to get DVD covers signed, selfies with me and buy comics. And nearly every single customer pledged for my “Life Drawing” book as well, which was really satisfying.

Some of my long standing comic friends were also there, including Mike Collins, Lew Stringer, Gary Crutchley and Colin Mathieson from Accent Books. Gary told me all about the Comics Course that Staffordshire are offering and sent some students with their work my way. I also met Stephen Griffiths who runs the drama department and it was encouraging to see the arts are a strong part of the curriculum here.

The week brought developments in other areas. I have had it confirmed that an original page of my art work from the “Vivacity” comic is going to be exhibited at The Cartoon Museum as part of “The Inking Woman” exhibition which starts on April 26th running till December. I shall literally be ‘hanging’ with the female star comic artists, including Posy Simmonds, Karrie Fransman, Corinne Pearlman, Hannah Berry, Rachael Ball, Alison Sampson, Emma Vieceli, Sarah Lightman, Nicola Streeten, Wallis Eates and Henny Beaumont.

And the big news of the moment is that I am soon to star in the European premiere of “Ballroom“, the Broadway musical at Waterloo East Theatre this May. The last time I performed at this terrific fringe theatre was with my one woman show “Sunset Bitch” about seven years ago now. This show is a poignant Cinderella story about a middle aged widow finding new life at the local ballroom. It features a fantastic torch song “Fifty Per Cent” which is more famous than the show. But I’ve heard the score and it is all fabulous.

I shall also be exhibiting some of my art work and selling prints and comics after the show in the foyer. All for the “Life Drawing. A Life Under Lights” crowdfunding pot. So be sure to book your tickets and come see us.

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Sister Pledge. The start of a new adventure in crowdfunding!

I have returned to my website blog after an embarrassingly long radio silence, mainly due to so much happening, I haven’t had time to process it!

Jessica Martin's 'Life Drawing - A Life Under Lights' Graphic Memoir
The start of 2017 brought with it an exciting new prospect. I was invited to pitch a graphic novel idea to Lizzie Kaye, who had just taken on a new position as Commissioning Editor of Graphic Novels at Unbound Books, a literary publisher. She liked my idea and before February was out, I found myself fleshing out a book proposal and creating art work for a potential book which would only be published if the costs were reached through a crowdfund campaign.

Life Drawing: A Life Under Lights” is a graphic memoir. Up till now I’ve been telling the stories of women more famous and notorious than I. Part of an actress’s default makeup is to live the lives of others and escape your own, and I was no less guilty of that in my choice of subjects for comics storytelling. But the thing that I noticed in what I found appealing in the stories that I had read to date in graphic novels, were the ones that were on the autobiographical side. The lives were not necessarily dramatic or heroic but the insights resonated and the creative journey (I think now of Eddie Campbell’s “Alec. The Life of the Artist“) is always a compelling one. In fact my first comic strips “Wishful Inking” were about my everyday life.

Despite my early flush of success in the field of entertainment, the stakes of what success is, have changed beyond recognition. We now live in the age of celebrity and brand and I doubt my autobiography pitched to the mainstream as a prose novel would have attracted the slightest bit of interest. A jobbing actress has an art hobby. So what!

But I knew I was at a time in my life where I’m looking back on what I have and haven’t achieved, what I’ve learnt etc. And I know that I am reaching out to an audience comprised of people who might be on a quest for creative self expression too. I think comics and graphic novels act as a form of poetry. They can access emotion and convey layers of information in just a few words and the appropriate imagery.

Really it comes down to the creative urge. There is a deep seated compulsion to tell my story now and there is a niche but growing audience who want to hear it!

My story is about dreams coming true, dreams falling apart and new ways to dream. It is many stories. Other peoples’ whose lives have touched my own. My Singaporean father arriving in London to seek fame and fortune as a jazz musician in Soho. My Irish mother escaping her parochial roots, attracted to the exoticism and excitement of Fifties London.
It’s about how culture can enhance at even the base level of life. The TV documentary about Garbo I watched as a child, inspired a lifelong love of classic film, art and acting.
It’s about being unorthodox to make things happen.
It’s my philosophy that life is an adventure from which we can gain insights to share, uplift and maybe inspire. Stories are medicine..

The added responsibility that comes with writing an autobiography can be so onerous that at times, you even think… am I at best brave enough or at worst insensitive enough to carry this through? In my case, I’m thinking about my family’s feelings. What do I share? How much do I reveal? What is just pure self serving sensationalism? My father passed away twenty years ago and we had a challenging relationship. But I loved him as he did me, and part of doing this book was to commemorate his talent and service to entertainment, his chosen art form and legacy to his descendants. My Mum is still with us and I want to be honest about the hardships she endured without embarrassing her.

Crowdfunding a novel would not be mine or many authors first choice of means to publication. We’d all love to have a bidding war, a six figure advance and an instant audience to buy and love our work. But now first hand experience at self publishing and independent publishing has given me a realistic view of how this whole thing works. Kickstarter could have been an option but then I would still have to market and distribute the book myself or go pitch to a publisher once the book was funded with no guarantees that things would happen straight away. What attracted me to Unbound was that here was a sort of “Here’s the Golden Fleece (publishing deal, marketing and distribution taken care of) and now your challenges are to get the funding by whatever means you can.”

One of the things I’ve learnt is that marketing cannot be left till after the book has happened. It’s good to start banging the drum and letting people know in advance, so you can get a feel for how the book is going to go. My crowdfunding campaign is as much about gauging a response as it is about raising the target money. Unbound authors are encouraged to post regular updates and keep their readers apprised of what’s happening, milestones reached etc. It also keeps the author on their toes. Everyday I wake, I literally ask myself ” Why the story? What’s the story?”

Was I scared or nervous?

Trepidation doesn’t even cover it! I lost my crowdfunding virginity last week and it was like being a kid standing at the edge of the diving board… crying with panic. It took half of the first day drafting a personal message and then reading three articles on motivational exhortation before I channelled my inner Mormon and got knocking on the doors. It dredged up all manner of childhood insecurities about being rejected, not being liked, fear of losing friends because I’d tapped them for money… do you want me to go on?!

But overall, the response has been a rather beautiful and overwhelming demonstration of loyalty won through the work I have done to date, yes, I’ll admit, my Doctor Who legacy has been helpful, extreme generosity from unexpected ‘angels’ together with the standard and understandable: “No, can’t help at this time but wish you well” and quite a few no responses… which may turn into positive responses later in the campaign.
What emboldens me now is that I think, yes, a lot of people may feel uncomfortable that I’ve asked, they may think: “Why should I donate to something that isn’t an investment or a charity?” but I’ve had people say to me that I’ve inspired them and that creative work does make a difference. So I’m switching the mute button on self doubt and carrying on. When I finish the book, I hope all my supporters will feel proud they kept the faith.

If you would like to pledge or share the link please click here

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Conceived, Believed, Achieved!

At the time of writing, I am sitting with a coffee in the rarified surroundings of The Grove Hotel. This is the place that was my weekly ‘office’ for the time that I spent creating “Elsie Harris Picture Palace“. In June 2015 I finished this book… my very first graphic novel.
So now, I have the luxury of actually finishing my coffee before it is stone cold. I am enjoying a rest from the labour of having finished a full length novel in words and pictures and a three month acting engagement in the hit musical “Elf” in the West End.

Jessica Martin's 'Elsie Harris Picture Palace' Graphic Novel
My last blog entry was nearly a year ago and when I list the activities of the last eleven months, it’s easy to see why!
I have been climbing a mountain. Ignorance is bliss however because if anyone told me I was about to climb a mountain, or do anything that requires long term tenacity and commitment, I might have shirked the idea completely.
Out of interest, I looked up the blog post entitled “The Year of Living Graphically” just to check when I had made my bold mission statement. It was January 28th, 2012. So it has taken me approximately three years and five months to reach my goal of completing and having a graphic novel published. And in that time frame, I also completed two self-published comics, created over 20 individual works reproduced as postcards and prints and collaborated on five other anthologies too.
The work itself was like a mirror of my character’s journey. Elsie starts as a complete ingenue at the start of the story and becomes an apprentice in the film industry, learning her craft on the job. Likewise, I did a whole lot of ‘faking till you make it’ and am indebted to many people who helped and encouraged me on the way.
The three most important people in that process of ‘caterpillar to butterfly’ are Mark Buckingham, my Sensei in everything to do with the Comic Arts, Bob Wakelam, my business partner and support in everything from designing this website to driving me to comic cons and minding the table whilst I chat to the ‘customers’, and Andy Oliver… now the editor in chief at Broken Frontier who has reviewed and supported me so loyally since my first comic “It Girl” came out.
Most of this year has been spent with my head down, getting those pages completed as I hear a galley slave drum beating in my head! The slave driver being myself of course. But throughout the year I had wonderful opportunities to share my work. The last blog was all about my first art exhibition at the Radlett Centre and I had my first solo comic art exhibition at Orbital Comics in late summer, as well as a drawing class themed around “Elsie“.
Will Salmon, the editor at “Comic Heroes” the new relaunched magazine, did an article on the book and my work as well as giving it a glowing, four star review. Olly MacNamee at Bleeding Cool also gave it a wonderful endorsement and Ian White also interviewed me and I got three pages of coverage in “Starburst” magazine.

The book itself took a few months to actually manifest… editing, behind the scenes printer dramas, as various British printers sadly went out of business due to the stiff competition from cheap printers abroad. However,on November 20 2015 “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” was published in beautiful hard bound coffee table glory by Miwk Publications. Matt West and Rob Hammond really did me proud on this production. Full Cream Miwk.

There will be more posts to follow… all catching up on the recent events, including “Elf” the musical and my first comic work for big time publishers, Vertigo.

So please drop in again!

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Hanging with the Stars

Monday March 2nd marked the first day of my art exhibition at the Apthorp Gallery in the Radlett Centre, Hertfordshire. The show is entitled “Jessica Martin’s Picture Palace” because the theme is my lifelong passion… the golden age of Hollywood.

'Jessica Martin's Picture Palace' Art Exhibition
I’d been posting up portraits of my favourite film stars in various media for the past year (for my own pleasure… since my primary focus has been doing my graphic novel). I’d been sharing them on Facebook, which caught the attention of Greg Dexter, general manager of the Radlett Centre. He suggested to me that I might like to have my own exhibition at the venue. This is a year ago and I can hardly believe how quickly it’s come round.
I made the decision to use artwork I’d made already with a few surprises for the exhibition.
Time more than anything was the chief constraint. The best way to present my work, which has a pop art feel to it, was to reproduce them as digital canvas prints and sell them as a limited edition run.
My business partner Bob spent a good few hours hanging the sixteen canvases in the Apthorp Gallery… making a picture of the pictures. The spaces between the art were as important as the work itself. We grouped according to size and style and made sure we had price lists and names framed and visible on the walls too.
Small catalogues with thumbnails of the artwork were laid out for people to pick up along with flyers for my book “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” and a spiral bound Visitor’s Book with a pen attached for people to write comments.

The big night was Thursday March 12th when I had my private viewing night. I had three more canvases and a giant portrait to unveil on the night. Although things had not gone according to plan… those canvases did not arrive in time for the viewing so I had my contingency plan in place. I opted for having paper prints run up and framed and my giant canvas was a print mounted on poster board. Thank you Minuteman Press! The ‘star’ piece was my own immersive artwork… a portrait of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood and me as Maid Marian.
A whole new spin on the Selfie!

I was nervous as to who and how many people would show up to the event, as it is out of town though by no means inaccessible.
I was delighted to greet a steady influx of guests throughout the evening, which meant my next worry was… would we have enough food? But Georgie’s Cafe/Bar at the Radlett Centre delivered great refreshments.
It was really satisfying to see a good mix of friends, family, colleagues from the world of theatre and comics together. Lovely things were said (and recorded in the Visitor’s Book). I made my first sale to my actor/writer friend Julian Dutton who was taken with my Mucha style portrait of Gabrielle Ray, a Gaiety Girl from the 19th Century. (One of my few non-movie star pictures). I had interest from another gallery in exhibiting my work there and also sold a lot of my “It Girl” and “Vivacity” comics.

The exhibition is on till the end of March and now that I have dipped my toes in the waters of the art world I don’t think there’ll be any turning back. Please go and have a look if you’re in the area… I’d be happy to show you round if you let me know.

Next blog will be about my fab weekend at the London Super Comic Con.

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Jessica Martin’s Picture Palace

I am now making preparations for my very first solo art exhibition in the Apthorp Gallery at The Radlett Centre. The hint is in the title… yes… my very own hall of fame dedicated to all the Hollywood and British film icons who have enthralled me for a lifetime.

'Jessica Martin's Picture Palace' Art Exhibition
I am very grateful to Greg Dexter, manager of The Radlett Centre who saw me share my art work on Facebook and invited me to exhibit at this local arts centre.
I have quite a body of work to display considering my main focus has been on making comics and producing my graphic novel. But my art work has been all consuming as you all know. The positive side of an obsessive personality!
So I hope I will be seeing lots of friendly faces over the next month and at my viewing night on March 12th. There will be a catalogue with a full price list available at the exhibition and here on my website in due course. The art work is a collection of limited edition canvas prints of my digital work.
A very brief glimpse of some work for my graphic novel “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” will be on display too. There will be a dedicated exhibition for my comic art work coming up at Orbital Comics in August.
And my two best selling comics “It Girl” and “Vivacity” will be on sale too.
Look forward to seeing you there!
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‘Vivacity’ picked for one of the Ten Must Own Comics of 2014

A very happy 2015 to you all!
I’m back home after a fantastic sojourn in ‘Elf’ the musical. I have been so busy I didn’t have time to blog about the fact I was even doing it. I played the step mom of the iconic Elf character in this UK premiere in the company of some wonderful actors including Ben Forster, Joe McGann and Aoibhinn McGinnity.
'Elf' the musical
The whole season was an experience of collective innovation, good spirits and great talent. What a way to make a living!
I feel tired, obviously, gratified, and now a little daunted as I look at the task I have before me… the completion of my passion project “Elsie Harris Picture Palace“. Before I crack the whip and enter the chariot race, it’s time to look back over the events of the past year and see that it is possible to achieve quite a lot when you’re engaged in the work you love.
This time last year I was coming to the end of my panto run in Bromley. I was delighted with the way my comic career was taking off. “It Girl“, my first self-published comic was praised in reviews and selected as one of the Ten must own Comics of 2013 by Broken Frontier Press. This was followed up by a wave of terrific activity… sell out stocks in shops including Orbital Comics, GOSH! comics and Foyles Bookshop, invitations to collaborate on other independent projects suited to my style including “To End All Wars” and “To Arms“. I was asked to speak at Laydeez Do Comics and the GOSH! Process group, I had my first guest exhibitor experience at ICE Birmingham and also had my work exhibited at the Barbican for the “To End All Wars” book and at Orbital comics as part of their PC Horror Exhibition.
My biggest comic achievement of 2014 was being shortlisted for the Myriad Editions First Graphic Novel Prize which took me the British Library for the final announcement in May. “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” was then snapped up for publication by burgeoning cult television and film based publishing house Miwk Publications.
I’m almost out of breath just listing all these stand out events! My most recent accolade and crowning glory for 2014 is that my loyal and influential champion at Broken Frontier, Andy Oliver gave my latest comic “Vivacity” an outstanding review and selected it for the Ten Must Own Comics of 2014.
So I haven’t been dreaming my comic life… it really is happening.
Next on the calendar is a guest slot at the brand new True Believers Comic Convention in Cheltenham on February 7th and then my first solo art exhibition at the Radlett Arts Centre in March.
Hope to see some of you there!
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Thought Bubble 2014

After the roller coaster of a year since the launch of my debut comic “It Girl” at Thought Bubble comic festival 2013 I made my return visit last weekend with this year’s short comic “Vivacity“. The festival layout had extended this year to include a teepee between the New Dock Hall and the Royal Armouries Hall.
Jessica at Thought Bubble 2014
We were given a stall in the Royal Armouries, same as last year but with a greater flow of traffic because of the breathing space with the additional exhibition area.
I found myself in celebrated company with Boulet and Hope Larson to my left and my friend Mark Buckingham to my right. And of course he had an ever increasing queue before he even arrived.
My trusty cohort Bob Wakelam had done a brilliant job packing all my burgeoning comic and art stock. It looked pretty impressive… two new comic banners, four boxes of comics, sets of about 20 different postcards plus my brochure and flyer handouts, copies of “To Arms” and “To End All Wars” as well. No one can say I’ve been napping this year.
The event is extremely well organised. I had Teresa Flavin (one of the many smiling volunteers) check that I had everything I needed and tweet a photo of me with my cargo. The doors opened at 10am and the queuing customers poured in. Of course there was a lot of non committal standing from afar, glancing over and mental toting up of comic spending budget before taking the plunge and buying a comic from a new supplier. I had success with “It Girl” last year but the majority of people who came to look and buy my goods were new to me and my books.
Familiar faces came by too… Steve White, Sean Phillips, Al Davison, Martin Eden,
Jade Sarson, Nora Goldberg, Chris Thompson, Jay Gunn, Terry Wiley, Colin Mathieson but for the most part comic com-padres had to stay rooted to their pitches and make the most of one of the biggest independent conventions all year.
I managed to go for a mooch around. Couldn’t miss having a look at the steampunk tea emporium across the way… a massive pop up shop with the most incredibly creative array of comics, prints, boxes and all manner of merchandise lovingly constructed.
Over in the teepee I made the acquaintance of Des Taylor who does fabulous glamorous comic art work with a slightly retro animation feel. It got talking to Maxwell Oginni who is assistant artist to Des and animator for the Mr Bean cartoon series. He wanted to know all about my comic journey as he is just stepping into this world himself.
I had a lovely diversion at lunchtime as I had agreed to meet deaf musician and sign performer Paul Whittaker to collect a very special package. Earlier in the weekend I had put up a post on Facebook about James Mason (the model for my hero in “Elsie Harris Picture Palace“). Paul had commented that his family knew James Mason and he had a personal letter from him in his possession. Would I like it? And that he was in the Leeds area the following weekend. If that isn’t a huge rap on the door from fate, I don’t know what is. Paul has done signed performances for lots of musicals including the production of “Sunset Boulevard” that I played Norma Desmond in, so we had a lot to catch up on.
I also bumped into my immensely talented comic creator friend Jason Wilson aka Jay Gunn who had his finished portfolio of “Surface Tension” with him. Titan are releasing it in a few months and it is going to be extremely impressive. He had written, drawn and coloured it to a superlative level.
The cyclical theme of the year in comics was completed with an evening spent in the company of the wonderful Andy Oliver. He is responsible for advancing my profile and that of many small press comic creators for no other reward than the joy of giving new work a spotlight. It was his first visit to Thought Bubble and I know he greatly enjoyed being there and seeing his ‘discoveries’ flourishing.
I didn’t spend much time partying in the evening but I did get to meet Lisa Wood who goes by the name of Tula Lotay, illustrator for Image and Vertigo. She is the mastermind or should I say mistressmind behind Thought Bubble. It is no mean feat to have put this event on, be the director of Travelling Man comic shops and a star comic artist… ask a busy woman!
I couldn’t stay the whole weekend as I had to get to Plymouth for rehearsals on “Elf” but I still managed to sell some comics in the brief hour I spent on my stall on Sunday morning. I had good sales for both “Vivacity” and “It Girl” and made some new friends and connections.
So now it’s time for my other hat with performing over Christmas… then onto the main event… Finishing “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” ready for summer 2015!
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Vivacity Launch

So here I am, almost a year on from my comic debut at Thought Bubble. “It Girl” was the first of a burgeoning career in my new field of self expression. Since last year I have seen “It Girl” garner favourable reviews, sell out several times over in select comic and bookshops and managed to contribute to two anthologies and get shortlisted for the Myriad First Graphic Novel Fiction Prize 2014.
Tomorrow I will launch my second short film star comic. This time the star turn is that of young Vivien Leigh.
Vivacity - Comic
I have chosen to focus on her meteoric rise to stardom playing Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind“. My art style in this comic is very different to “It Girl“. All the pages are rendered entirely in pencil and darkened digitally.
It is still a voyage of discovery in terms of technique and I have much to thank my wonderful mentor Mark Buckingham for in terms of guidance.
This has to be a short blog but there is a lot to catch up on which I will be doing in the coming weeks. Forgive the retrospective diary keeping that will be a necessary part of this but it’s important not to forget the who, what and where of what is proving to be an incredible time of adventures for me.
Two things I will be expounding on are my 2015 publication of “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” with Miwk Publishing and my imminent season of performing in the UK premiere of the Broadway musical “Elf”.
See you on here again soon!
Full report on Thought Bubble to follow!
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Last Saturday I paid my first visit to the ELCAF Festival in Bethnal Green, London.
The event is always flagged on the calendar for Small Press Comic Creators from the UK and all over the world to tout their wares.
Hosted by Nobrow, it has more of a hipster feel to it than Thought Bubble but even an old square like me didn’t feel too out of place!
There were queues outside and the hall itself was packed to the gills.
ELCAF Poster
Bob, my trusty partner in comic crime and I went purely for a look around and meet up with various friends. The talks were for the most part booked up. I would have loved to have been able to attend the Chris Ware talk. He is an American comic artist and giant of the independent comic scene. He also designed this year’s poster.
Saw some familiar faces on the Self Made Hero stall… David Hine and Mark Stafford still going strong with “The Man Who Laughs“, Rob Davis‘ “Don Quixote” and Jake’s “Hellraisers” all doing good business. Although I didn’t see him, Ian Culbard was there with his new book “Celeste“.
Woodrow Phoenix was on the Blank Slate table with “Napoleon” amongst other works. I’m looking forward to seeing his giant one-off comic work on display at the British Library soon. Another face from the recent Myriad Prize evening was Ilya, who I spent time talking with about the importance of self promotion, even when your work is published.
Got to meet the prolific Darryl Cunningham who produces informative, important work in a really engaging way. He signed my copy of “Science Tales“, which I had on me. Also had a chance to meet Adam Caldwell of Great Beast publishing who are producing a range of terrific comics including his own “Blood Blokes“… his twist on the vampire genre which is original and very funny.
Two of my comic journo friends were also there. Andy Oliver from Broken Frontier will soon have to clone himself, as he is in such demand and lovely Alex Fitch from Panel Borders.
And then I also spent a good deal of time in the very inviting bar area outside with two of my ‘collaborators to be’ Philip Ebbrell and Bryan Lea. It was so hot you really had to go around the fair in shifts.
As per usual, came out with more goods than I’d intended to buy but what can you do? There are worse vices!
Think I will definitely try to get myself a pitch there next year.
Might have to grow a beard!
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To Arms …Comic anthology

This morning I received my second anthology ‘commission’ to date.
By coincidence… or is it? I have been invited to create a story for another World War One anthology called “To Arms” which is being crowd funded on
Again a project with amazing artists involved.

I have decided to base my story on the military life of Sapper Dorothy Lawrence, the only woman to have gone to the Front in World War One.

'To Arms'
A courageous and sad tale it naturally appeals to my taste for tales of girls who show gumption and daring.
I’ve started researching today.
Apropos of War stories, I gave myself a news report deadline this weekend when I was moved to create a one page story about World War Two veteran Bernard Jordan who slipped away from his care home to make his pilgrimage to Normandy for the D-Day celebrations.
That wraps up all the events to date. I’ll report back with more ‘happenings’ from the comic book front.
Over and out!
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