Under the influence: Razor Blade Smile

“I bet you think you know all about vampires. Believe me….you know fuck all!”

I’ve been a fan of this low budget British vampire flick since it came out. As a massive fan of Hammer horror and 80s video nasties, Razor Blade Smile appealed to me as it clearly draws on both of these genres. There is plenty of sex, gore and tongue-in-cheek humour thoughout, as well as an over-blown plot, all of which adds up to an extremely entertaining B-movie. The movie follows Lilith Silver, hired gun assassin and centuries old vampire, who is slowly uncovering a sinister link between some of the people she has recently been hired to execute. I would absolutely love to work on a comic adaptation of this movie, or a mini series of the further adventures of Lilith Silver. If director Jake West or star Eileen Daly like the sound of this please get in touch!

I reviewed the movie for horror website The Slaughtered Bird and you can follow this link to read my review. Rather than duplicate the review here, I thought I’d talk about about why this movie has been an influence on my comics and art.

I love 80s and 90s horror, and anything that goes over the top is just fine with me. I also really like cheesy dialogue and humour in my B-movies, and Razor Blade Smile has this in spades. It bobs and weaves between the main plot and peering into the private lives of urban ‘vampires’, which has been a great inspiration to me in respect of constructing scripts and story ideas.

The look of the movie is suitably low budget and makes the most of pouring sexy scream queen Eileen Daly into an impossibly tight latex catsuit for and positioning her against stereotypical villain characters. The whole thing looks like its leapt out of the pages of a horror comic and jumped into your VHS player. There is blood everywhere and the sex / death scenes are erotic as they are gory. Its a constant go-to movie for me when it comes to wanting something that gives me my fix of any of these things and gives me repeated inspiration to draw and write B-movie style comics. Both Brutal Bombshells and Rock In Purgatory have been influenced by the type of outrageous visuals and scripting that Razor Blade Smile has to offer.

Its not a movie everyone will like. Given its low budget status its beyond the tastes of mainstream horror fans and due to its age (the movie was originally released in 1998) many new indie horror fans may either not have heard of it or find it dated. But if you like things like ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’ from the Soska Sister,s Razor Blade Smile’s production values will sit well with you.

For your vulgar delectation…..here’s the whole film….

Thunder Lynx – cos you wanted the best!

I’ve just finsihed editing and lettering the latest Rock In Purgatory comic. This will be published in the next Popcorn Horror magazine, which is out in mid-April.

The band featured in this strip was named by my Twitter followers. After asking for suggested band names, I picked my favourite three and put it to the vote. Thanks to a whole lot of retweets and a little bit of friendly competition between my shortlisted contributors, we got a load of votes in. It was a close call, but Vada Callisto’s suggestion of Thunder Lynx won.

I’m going to run votes for more RIP elements, as I am really interested to see what you guys like. Plus it’s fun to throw ideas around and get people involved. So please follow me on Twitter @gojacksongo to keep up to date with any of my audience participation activities.

Anatomy of a page: Rock In Purgatory

 

I have been blazing away through Rock In Purgatory page creation lately. This comic has been so good for my artistic development. It not only forces me to try new compositions and draw things in a way I had not before, it has also opened up opportunities for me to try out new styles and techniques. I though it was about time I wrote another ‘how I did it’ style post to show one of the many ways I have been creating this comic.

First up, I thought I would go with a more traditional page than some of the ones I have previously done. Up until recently, all of Rock In Purgatory has been drawn as individual frames, each on an A4 sheet, edited together digitally. However, as I started to venture into having a few two and four page strips, I quickly realised that going back to drawing a whole page as one piece was going to be the best way forward.

Why the change?
On the one page strips, I have to convey a lot in a short time. As I have chosen to stick rigidly to presenting every strip within a 9-panel page layout, I end up with a maximum of seven panels to tell the whole story. With longer strips, I have the chance to add more depth or slow the pace. This often means I end up with some more incidental panels than usual. Though drawing these each as A4 would be fun, it would take ages, and the space I would have to play with would mean I would add far too much detail. Going back to a single A3 sheet for each page limits me a little. I can concentrate on the important details and also speed through the page.

The photos above show the progress of a new piece I am working on. Once I have thumbnailed the layout of the page, I get it marked up ready to start drawing. I keep it nice and loose to start with, working the shapes and action lines into place so that I have a nice solid foundation for the art.

Next, I tighten the pencils up a bit. I have recently pretty much relinquished all use of my lightbox and have opted to ink directly onto the same page that I have been pencilling. Personally, I have found this not only speeds things up but also leads to a better final piece. I used to procrastonate over the pencils so much and ended up making them as perfect as possible. When I came to ink them on the lightbox, I was never as happy with the inks as I was with the pencils. Now, I get as far as rough pencils and then make a lot of decisions for each panel at the ink stage. As you can see from the final image above, I am able to get a great final page that I am really happy with using this method. This is the first page from my first four page Rock In Purgatory strip.

Since you have read this far into this post, I thought I would treat you all to a further sneak peak into this strip. Here’s a character design sketch for a member of Vortex Face…see if you can guess why they named the band that….

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Kickstarter article

I wrote this article for the December issue of Popcorn Horror magazine, who just so happen to publish Rock In Purgatory. If you are considering crowd funding a creative project heres a few things to think about…

Anyone who has ever tried to get their art, project, or grand plan for world domination off the ground will have come across one obstacle or another. Most often it can be summarised in a simple question:

Where am I going to get the money to do this?

Every venture we undertake costs us money. Even if we are not looking to put ourselves into the public domain, we have to pay to do the things we are passionate about doing. So when it comes to taking a risk and going public, the advent of crowd funding platforms such as Kickstarter have suddenly made it incredibly easy to take that next step. I used Kickstarter last year to launch my debut horror comic Brutal Bombshells. Though I am pleased to say my campaign was successfully funded and that I did not experience as much stress as is often reported when running a campaign, it was no easy journey.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, crowd funding refers to the process of seeking investment in your venture from willing members of the public. People can offer to help fund your project and come away with an exclusive product if they make a financial contribution. Often a variety of products are available at different price levels. If you think of it as a way for fans to safely invest in something creative, it is easy to see why crowd funding is moving into the mainstream more and more. Pledge Music has been helping bands get albums released for years now, and Rob Zombie just used crowd funding to get his latest horror flick, 31, off the ground. As most crowd funding relies on hitting a minimum target, unless that target is reached nobody has to fork out cash for something they may not get. However, there are often risks on both sides as contributions may not truly meet the goal required. There are many sad tales of false promises and backers left empty handed. These range from individual people offering more than they can deliver, all the way to larger ventures overspending to the point of going out of business.

When I made the decision to pursue crowd funding as a way to launch my comic, I researched the platforms and processes to better understand what I was getting myself into. Crowd funding gives creatives the opportunity to have guaranteed funding for their project up front. The risk is, in theory, low – if you don’t hit your funding target you do not have to deliver on anything. It’s free to set up a campaign, with the platform only taking a cut if you fund. So again, low risk. Plus, I was pleasantly surprised to find there is a community of users on Kickstarter. These are people keen to get involved in new things which are exclusively available through crowd funding. Roughly 65% of my backers were Kickstarter regulars who had no interaction with me until I launched the campaign. Considering the amount of effort I put into digital marketing and social media activity, this was a revelation to me.

This was all fantastic news for me and my comic. I spent a long time comparing other campaigns and backing a few myself  to experience how it worked from both sides before deciding on my plan of action. Seeing similar projects to mine seeking thousands of pounds and offering many outlandish rewards, I chose to keep my first campaign simple. I opted to treat my campaign as a pre-order promotion. I had sought printing costs already and knew how much producing the comic would set me back. Rather than factor in time and materials for the art and writing, I just went for actual expenditure. I created this comic because I wanted to and I was happy not to be paid for the work this time. As a new face on Kickstarter, I felt that humbly asking people to pre-order copies was the best way to go about it.

One big attraction to using a digital platform such as Kickstarter is its ability to help you reach a potentially global audience. But if you are not prepared for this it can be very hard to fulfil all you have set out to do. I was ecstatic to find I had contributors from across the world. Most were purchasing a digital copy of the comic, but I still had a lot of physical sales to Europe and the US, and one person in central America buying an original piece of art. I was not aware that the postage costs I was charging contributed to target amount and not collected separately, which nearly caused me a lot of trouble. This was my own mistake, but it was one of many things that were not clear when setting up my campaign that could have tripped me up considerably.

On top of this I had a rather nerve wracking three weeks with that piece of original art being lost by the US postal service! The piece was priced high, so if it disappeared I would have been liable to refund the backer. This would have been disastrous for me – by this point the comic had been printed and paid for, so the money had been spent. Any refund would have to come out of my own wallet. I couldn’t help but smell a rat and was convinced that either the buyer was trying to pull a fast one or it had been stolen by an opportunistic postie.

Luckily, after weeks of chasing the buyer I got an email from him to say it had finally arrived safely.

It is worth pointing out that financial and logistical mishaps are not isolated to crowd funding. No matter how you try to fund and deliver a project, something will always go wrong. In a past life I ran my own company promoting live music events. Even for the low cost / low risk shows, there was always a chance I could lose money or have an awful situation on my hands. Things are never totally within our control. So, if you are considering a crowd funding campaign, here are a few things to always keep in mind.

Communication and honesty are key to everything. People are committing to pay you money for something, so you need to tell them what is going on. If it is still in production when you launch the campaign, say so. If it runs late, let them know. If you can’t get to the post office because you have too much to do, apologise and let them know when you’ll have time. People hate being lied to (don’t you?) so avoid giving them excuses and fob offs. Most people are totally fine with things changing as long as they are kept in the loop.

Do your maths – then do your maths again! If you hit your target you’ll be charged a fee or two as the money gets processed. It is hard to fully anticipate this, so do your maths well and consider a number of different outcomes. Don’t get caught out. If you have something to physically post to people, take it to the post office and note down all the postage charges you can so you know how to set these costs. Get all your production costs worked out and then add a bit more, just in case. However……

Don’t get greedy. Setting contribution tiers too high will put people off, and setting the target amount too high will make it harder to reach. Be fair, but if you are in it to make a profit, make it a reasonable one. If you are using crowd funding it is likely you do not have the money to invest in your project already. If you make your primary goal to deliver a cost neutral project then any over funding can start to contribute to profits. Once you’ve delivered the best crowd funding campaign ever, you can think about clawing in the cash on the next venture.

I would recommend that creatives considering crowd funding take the plunge and give it a go, but I urge you to keep your wits about you and be prepared to put effort into it. A great campaign needs to be engaging and informative if it is to stand a chance. Make it as awesome as you can. And one last piece of advice: don’t bother with the Kickstarter trope of rewarding a £1 pledge with “your eternal thanks”. Spoiler alert – nobody bothers backing that!

NEW! Rock In Purgatory out now!

Who’s up for some more rock star deaths? New Rock In Purgatory is out now in the latest Popcorn Horror magazine.

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This issue sees the untimely demise of rockabilly punker Butch Sparks. Who would have thought spilled beer and mic cables could become such a deadly  combination…

You can pay what you want to download the magazine from the Popcorn Horror website. Please consider contributing to the cost of producing the magazine so us indie  horror creators can continue to bring our  awesomeness.

How I did it: Paper doll commission

Hotties Vintage owner Trica booked me for a commission recently. She wanted a plus size paper doll piece with a vintage theme for the launch of her new plus size clothing and accessories boutique. Obviously, I was all over it!

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I started out by skecthing the model. I did this directly onto a piece of A3 Bristol board. She started out nude and bald. The intention had always been to give her some underwear, but I spent quite a while deliberating over whether she should have hair. Since I was going to be adding hair pieces, leaving her bald would give me more freedom. However, I did not think she looked in keeping with the vintage pinup look without hair, so I sketched in a short style for her.

Once I was happy that she was pencilled well enough, I threw her onto my lightbox and started to roughly sketch outfit ideas onto marker pager using pigment liners. I kept the outfit sketches quite sparse and did more than I could possibly fit on one A3 page. This left me with a load of options for the final composition. There were a couple of items I planned to definitely include – like the red wiggle dress – but there were also plenty of things that I was willing to experiment with. I swapped the pages over on the lightbox, so now I could move the black line outfit sketches around underneath the Bristol board. I quickly pencilled in the items I had decided I would include, leaving space between each, not just for the composition, but also to add foldable tabs.

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By this point, I had rough pencils for the whole piece. I tightened a few parts up so that I did not lose track of details, and then got stuck in with inks. I like to get to inking quite quickly, as I find it stops me procrastinating over the piece. I started with the model. She was the focus of this piece and the part which I had definite ideas for how she should look. The outlines for the outfits came next, before I added and adjusted the details on each item of clothing.

Lastly, the colours went in. I used ProMarkers for this piece. They are great for getting the bold tones and contours that really helped set off the luxurious curves of the model and make the clothes pop right out at you. I left it for a night before going back over the whole piece to make a few minor tweaks and changes to give it the sumptuous look it has, before getting it swiftly in the post to Tricia in time for her boutique launch.

I am always up for doing more commissions. If you would like your own piece of custom art by me, get in touch with me by email at rik.rsj@gmail.com, or tweet me @gojacksongo.

 

 

Alternative Valentine’s Day Cards

I have created these awesome heavy metal and horror themed Valentine’s Day cards for your delectation. Each card will be personalised with your own message and posted directly to that special someone in time for Valentine’s Day.

I have gone for KISS and Bon Jovi themed cards, as well as my classic Zombie Valentine illustration. So, if there is a rocker or gore fiend in your life that you want to show some love for, this will be perfect.

If you are interested please order soon so I can ensure the card is prepared and ready to send. Order from my Valentine’s Day card store.