London Burlesque glamour and Drawing on the Dark Side

The day after the Myriad Editions Prize event I was pitching my wares to the customers at the London Burlesque Festival at Conway Hall. My good friend Jess Kemp had brought myself, Rian Hughes and Chrissie Nicholson-Wild together for this fun afternoon. Rian and I sought to distract ogling eyes away from the bevy of saucy ladies on the stage to come buy our ‘artistic’ offerings of comics and prints. I sold a respectable amount of “It Girl” which (if you’ve seen my Twitter page), you will know, continues to sell out at Orbital, Gosh and now the BFI.
'Maleficent' - Manko
Comic artist friend Chris Geary popped in to show moral support… if that’s the right terminology! He and I met up later in the week to attend the ever popular Orbital Comics life Drawing class hosted by Jason Atomic. This last one was themed “Leave Something Witchy“. Jason’s ridiculously gorgeous girlfriend (she has a comic book figure in real life!) was dressed in various garb that brought memories of The Wicker Man and Maleficent to life. The soundtrack was disturbing… a lot of chanting and Grace Slick style vocalising with lyrics more obscure than White Rabbit but we managed to produce some coherent art.
Looking forward to the next big drawing night at Orbital which will feature the legendary Steve Rude doing live painting.
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The Short of It

Myriad Editions First Graphic Novel Prize
Glory Be!
The middle of May I got the news that I had reached the shortlist of six entrants for the Myriad Editions First Graphic Novel Prize with “Elsie Harris Picture Palace“.
I was invited to attend a ceremony at the British Library where they are currently hosting the Comics Unmasked exhibition. Comics are definitely high profile at the moment.
My closer family were in attendance as were my loyal friends Mark Buckingham ( it was his birthday that night so I was highly honoured), comic artist Jason Wilson aka Jay Gunn and Michael Yale and his partner Andy.
The chosen six, Henny Beaumont, Francesca Cassavatti, Wallis Eates, Jade Sarson, Robert Wells and myself were all asked questions about our work and also read out extracts from our work whilst the pages were projected onto a big screen.
The final moment came when the big envelope was opened…and the winner was Jade Sarson for her quirky mangaesque romance “For the Love of God, Marie”. She is a highly talented young creator who has been making her own comics for a while and her prize was well deserved.
For the rest of us, we can carry on with our work confident that in being shortlisted we are worthy of being published. As to who and when, watch this space very closely!
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‘Last of the Colophon’ release

Another recent ‘happening’ was the release of Big Finish‘s Doctor Who audio drama ‘The Last of the Colophon‘ which I recorded over a year ago but had to keep schtum about.
'Last Of The Colophon'
That was very tough, as I was itching to share all the fun I’d had sharing a vocal booth with the legendary Tom Baker. He is larger than life physically and in personality. I’m sure everyone else was cursing the fact that I kept feeding cues to prompt Mr Baker into performing another spellbinding monologue about a chapter of his life. We won’t be producing actors with his rich, theatrical vocal quality any more. To think we almost lost him to the priesthood!
Anyway I urge you to go and purchase this classic Doctor Who audio drama which features the other stellar talents of Gareth Thomas, Louise Jameson and Blake Ritson.
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Process at Gosh!

I was asked to be the guest creator at the Gosh Comics Process collective at the beginning of May to describe the process of creating and self-publishing my first comic: ‘It Girl‘.
This was a great honour for me and happened as a direct result of my speaking at the Laydeez Do Comics meeting in April.
Steve Walsh hosted the evening and I saw lots of friendly faces including Andy Oliver, Mike Medaglia (who drew some great caricatures of me) and my long standing writer friend Mark Brisenden.
'It Girl' by Jessica Martin
Steve remarked that he was delighted to see someone creating comics about ‘The Golden Age of Hollywood‘ …moi.
I shared stories of my journey thus far and also brought lots of samples of working drawings and inked pages for people to have a look at. By the end of the evening I found myself agreeing to spearhead a comic collaboration with four other creators – Mark Brisenden, Paul Smith, Philip Ebbrell and Bryan Lea …the golden age of Hollywood and other thrilling excursions to come in our first collective comic which we will publish at this year’s Thought Bubble.
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The Long of It.

Myriad Editions First Graphic Novel Prize
The second week of April I found out that I had made it to the sixteen long listed entries for the Myriad Editions First Graphic Novel Prize with my first graphic novel: ‘Elsie Harris Picture Palace‘.
Much excitement abounded.
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To End All Wars

So much has been happening of late that my blogging has been clogging. Here’s the first of some short retrospectives on what’s been occurring lately.
'To End All Wars'
The graphic adventures continue. Beginning of April I got a call from my lovely friend John Anderson at Soaring Penguin to see if I could step in to do art work on a story for the forthcoming World War 1 anthology “To End All Wars” edited by Jonathan Clode and John ‘Brick’ Clark.
Have a look at the ‘To End All Wars’website and you’ll see I’m in the company of some amazing artists and writers , many of whom have never done a comic book story before.
The bonus for me was that the writer of my story was Christopher Colley with whom I performed a few years ago at the home of Richard Stilgoe for an MCC Cricket Club event. And guess what? We were performing songs and poems from the World War 1 era!
The book is published in July and is already on the Amazon ranking for graphic novels at No 7 in their top ten.
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Comicmania

I’ve just about drawn breath after a fortnight of wonderful comic book happenings.
Two weeks ago I had the repeat pleasure of sharing the glory of Mark Buckingham‘s table at the London SuperComic Con. From the moment the doors opened there was a queue that almost blocked the light around our pitch. Devotees of “Fables” and Mark’s artwork were demanding commissions as fast as he could draw them and then some.
Jonathan Ross with Jessica and 'It Girl'
On the other side to me was renowned Italian comic artist Marco Santucci together with his apprentice/girlfriend Maria Laura Sanapo.
Despite feeling a bit out of place in this primarily super hero environment, the customers soon came. The lovely thing was that, like Thought Bubble, they were attracted to the cover and the silent movie theme of the work. I sold quite a few prints as well which you can have a shufti at over on my Emporium.
The atmosphere was convivial and it was great to see how many friends I’ve made on the comic scene in the space of a year. First visit was from my lovely friend Rob from Time Trek Bromley who gave me a vintage Movie House biscuit tin in honour of my Elsie work. Steve White from Titan also popped over to say hi. He’d been looking at my portfolio just one short year ago! Nora Goldberg from Soaring Penguin also stopped by… a great girl to whom I owe a lot for boosting my comic sales at Foyles on the Southbank. Terry Wiley took a pitstop between selling his wonderful “Verity Fair” with his portable trolley shop! Jason Wilson, one of the most amazing new graphic novelists together with my playwright friend Mike Yale also visited. I went over to the Myriad stall when I got a break and had a lengthy chat with Corinne Pearlman who remarked that I’d been doing a really good job of self promotion with my first comic!
New friends were made too, including the tremendously talented Ian Edginton, David Roach and Mike Collins.
Not one to miss a photo opportunity, I managed to meet with Jonathan Ross who did remember me despite the fact I had short spiky blonde hair however many years ago we met!
Whilst at the SuperComic Con, I was interviewed for the Panel Borders radio show by aficionado Alex Fitch. You can listen to the full interview at Panel Borders.
Monday night after the con was a more ‘indie’ affair with my talk at Foyles for Laydeez Do Comics. I had all my slides ready to prompt me with my whistlestop account of my journey in comics from school to the present day. Again it felt good to be supported by friends and family. Despite my experience as an actress, giving a ‘lecture’ is still a nerve wracking experience.
I must have done something right however because shortly after that I was invited by Steve Walsh at Gosh Comics to be their guest at the Process evening in May. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that they’d swung their Spotlight on me for their British Comics Month website. What an honour!
And so the excitement continued into this week with a trip to Lord Puttnam‘s free talk at International Student House on Wednesday. Lord Puttnam was of course given a copy of “It Girl” which he accepted graciously… he is a huge fan of Clara Bow.
The evening of pleasantries concluded with a quick visit to Comica Social Club where I bumped into Nora Goldberg again, Mark Stafford, Stephen Harris, Richard Hayes and had a fascinating talk with the host Peter Stanbury… a stalwart of the small press comics world and an extremely knowledgable and interesting man.
Meanwhile I am currently engaged in a last minute illustration assignment for a very exciting project. More about that next time. Adios!!
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Movies were Movies

Two important things to report. The first is that I have now completed the first thirty pages of “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” and the second is that I have been invited to speak at Laydeez Do Comics at Foyles on Monday March 17th. I am very excited about that.
Laydeez Do Comics
Amidst all the intensive work getting my pages done I have had some enjoyable outings, not least two to The Cinema Museum in Kennington. I was invited by Amran Vance who was hosting an evening of rare silent movie screenings including one of “Mantrap” starring none other than our very own Clara Bow directed by her then boyfriend and soon to be superstar director Victor Fleming. The screenings are every two weeks and are attended by a loyal following of early cinema devotees… an eclectic gathering of older men, some of whom have worked in the industry, to young film students who have stumbled on this Aladdin’s cave of film history.
The venue itself is on the site of the old Lambeth Workhouse where Charlie Chaplin spent some of his poverty stricken childhood. The lobby alone has old cameras standing like sentries at the entrance, parts of old ticket booths, lobby cards. You immediately step into a lost wonderland of the past. Volunteers lovingly run the tea bar, the screenings and the entrance fee is a ridiculously low donation of £2.00. If you like silent films or are even just curious about cinema past you should pay a visit.
By the mysterious power of Twitter and one lead leading to another I found myself in the company of Oscar winning Costume Designer Julie Harris and British and Hollywood film star Peggy Cummins at Julie’s London home. This was all thanks to my meeting Norwegian journalist Anne Leinum who is writing a coffee table memoir of Julie Harris’ incredible life and career. She started work at Gainsborough Pictures Film Studios in the forties and went on to work with major film stars including Dirk Bogarde, Diana Dors, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Her high point was winning the Oscar for her swinging sixties designs for Julie Christie in “Darling“. And pardon my boasting but I had the opportunity to hold that very same Oscar last week. I felt so privileged to meet her and hear some of her history and also the effervescent Miss Cummins whose beautiful blonde hair is still the colour of corn.
So it was quite poetic that I ended my week with a trip to the Cinema Museum again where they were holding a fundraising bazaar. I met Teri-Anne Scoble an actress and choreographer who has taken up painting and just been shortlisted for the BP portrait award. We of course had lots to chat about and I was very pleased to hear that she knew all about my “It Girl” comic. There was a stall with a fabulous selection of cult Hollywood films including the noir classic “Gun Crazy” starring… guess who? Peggy Cummins. I had a fabulous chat with Brian who runs the tea bar about his restoration work on antique projectors and I also met David on the Cinema Museum book stall who runs a heritage group for an historic cinema in Preston.
I also picked up wonderful memorabilia… film stills including an original James Mason, cigarette cards and a 1950 Picture-Goer magazine. I had to drag myself away.
Looking forward to my next cinematic time travel trip!
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Loneliness of the Long Distance Graphic Novelist

Here we are in March already.
I had good intentions to blog in February but my focus was on finishing 30 pages of my graphic novel “Elsie Harris Picture Palace“. This I achieved and now thankfully I can come up for some air before moving on to the next thrilling instalment.
And so I come to a fork in the road, blog wise. At this point I will now be blogging in two sections. One will be my day to day musings, happenings etc. but the bulk of my log will be concerning my book which you can find in the Elsie section.
The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth
I did have some play to balance the work in the last couple of months. I went along to the January edition of Laydeez do Comics, always an interesting and convivial affair. One of the speakers was a graphic facilitator… an occupation I had never come across before. Penelope Mendonca explained to us the uses of this corporate/creative exercise whilst tending to her two year old daughter who was up there on the podium with Mum. Graphic facilitating involves recording and enlivening a forum with drawings, visual shorthand and words. It was therefore no surprise that Penelope is ‘drawing’ on this experience to create a graphic novel about single mothers and absent fathers. The work is a combination of social documentation and fiction, addressing the issues that single mothers by choice or otherwise face. She was very generous in sharing her processes and advised anyone who might be interested in entering the field to look up websites on Graphic Facilitation courses. It is used in business meetings, government forums… all kinds of platforms where visual recording can stimulate engagement with challenging subjects.
Isabel Greenberg was also on the podium to share her brilliant “Encyclopedia of Early Earth” published By Jonathan Cape. Her retelling of world myths done in woodcut style is humorous, quirky and beautiful to look at. She also showed us some decorated plates, reclaimed from an aunt’s china collection, which she sells on Etsy. It was interesting that she had entered the Jonathan Cape short story competition a couple of times which shows great tenacity, a quality need to endure the demands of creating a full length work.
I also went to a screening at Gosh Comics of Daniel James Baldwin‘s “Comics are my Rock and Roll“, a documentary about two guys mounting an international small press comic convention. The documentary was really entertaining with its protagonist Jimmy showing a passion for a career that financially has set him way behind peers from his schooldays but the satisfaction he gets from creating far outweighs the security of a nine to five job. The documentary was more a human interest story than an analysis of comic process which made it more engaging on a universal level. I’ve just pledged some money to the Kickstarter campaign for a documentary film about women in comics called “She Makes Comics” because I would love to see even more films about the comics industry.
In my next blog I move away from comics and onto my other passion… old films!
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It Girl and I

Hello there and a very happy New Year to all my readers.
Welcome to 2014 and it is a prospect that I find exciting.
I’ve just finished a highly enjoyable pantomime season at The Churchill Theatre Bromley making all Cinderella’s wishes come true as Fairy Godmother and now I’m looking forward to manifesting some of my own desires.
'It Girl' at Jessica's Emporium
I always like to invigorate my intentions with an inspirational quote. Yes, I know cynics out there will have visions of twee greetings cards with mountains and eagles soaring overhead ” When Life gives you Lemons… Make a cheesecake” etc. But honestly I do find the Mary Poppins method of thinking positively has got to be the best way forward. My quote for the start of the year is “A strong imagination begetteth opportunity” Michel de Montaigne. And that language is a big giveaway that the source of oration was not some besuited motivational speaker who has recently left their job in car sales.
Imagination will solve everything because pausing for thought and allowing the mind to dream bigger and exceed the boundaries of what exists is the only way evolution and revolution happens. Lofty aspirations perhaps. I am and have been using my imagination to create my first comic and sell it.
Since it was launched at Thought Bubble just six weeks ago it is now on sale in six shops… Orbital Comics London, Plan B Books Glasgow, Travelling Man Newcastle, Time Trek Bromley, BFI Southbank and Foyles Southbank. It sold out its first run at Orbital, Time Trek and Foyles. It’s selling really well on my online Emporium too.
Aside from that I’ve had a clutch of positive reviews, a podcast with Steve Lacey for 20 Minute Longbox, and am about to do an interview for a Canadian graphic novels study and Greek Comics blog. So “It Girl” is getting global attention.
Pardon the boastful tone of this entry but what I’m trying to show is that my little comic, which really came from the casual thought that I should produce something small to demonstrate my comic creating skills at Thought Bubble, has mushroomed into what is effectively a small business. I am building up a readership who will hopefully want to also read ‘Elsie Harris Picture Palace” and I’m meeting a lot of interesting and influential people along the way.
The beautiful unexpected cherry on the cake was starting the year to find that “It Girl” had been listed in Broken Frontier‘s Top Ten Small Press comics.
But this is no time to be complacent. Now I have to push the proverbial envelope and get my imagination to create some more opportunities for me.
Have a creative, fulfilling January folks till next we meet!
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