Alongside the Rochdale-Manchester railway line is the Sharp Project, an ex-factory now dedicated to tech startups. Doubtless a front for the foment of communism, but I digress.
When I first moved to Manchester fifteen years ago, the most outré thing you would have seen out back of the Sharp factory was a couple of fellows loading palettes of microwaves onto a truck. Today, I saw two young men there photographing a third, who was dressed as a kind of red and green goblin. I’m sure this is all “progress” but I still felt a chill in my heart as the train sped on past Newton Heath.
Not that Sharp wasn’t associated with the black arts even when that place built ovens. The Microwave Magic van was usually parked up there in the late nineties. “When we stop, the magic starts,” read the legend on the side. No record of this necromancy exists.
RE: SGR and Bobbins being linked to more prominently... You said "they’re not meant to be prominent, they’re old work, semi-hidden". I'm sort of sad that you think that your audience doesn't love them well enough for you to want to link to them. I dug and dug and found them, but wondered why I had to... I think they're important to read so that the "backstory" that you sometimes include in BM, GD, and especially for this recent trip into Bobbins, makes sense.
My existing readers aren’t the reason I tuck the links to old/defunct/”resting” series away a little. I think my 16 years of comics are confusing to new readers. The question of where to start, or fear of starting, is something I see and hear over and over again. No one needs to start reading my comics from 1998 to get what the latest Bad Machinery story is about. I’d prefer it if they didn’t have to read the last Bad Machinery story to get what the current one is about. All that stuff is there if people want it, but they have to want it!
Are you planning on adding the SGR archives and Bobbins to the top bar on the website? They're a little tricky to find from the main page. Also, will we ever see another Giant Days?
I wasn’t planning on putting them up there - I think anyone with a little patience can find them - they’re not meant to be prominent, they’re old work, semi-hidden. Not sure when Giant Days will return but I have more stories in mind, so hopefully one day, it’ll be back.
I’ll be doing a signing at Travelling Man in Manchester on April 5th at 3PM, drawing all over copies of The Case Of The Good Boy. Here’s the Facebook event. I’ve never done an in-store signing before due to “fear of no-one turning up” (a real medical condition), so just imagine my gratitude if/when you do.
I got the print version of ‘Bad Machinery: the Case of the Good Boy’ last night and it is magnificent. There is a visual representation of ‘Unicorn Frenzy’ that makes me wish it was a real game and some new pages featuring this beautiful creature.
Hi! If Jacks sister and her friends are old enough now to drive, and vote and are "practically grown women", how come they are still at a school where there are younger kids and they have to wear uniforms? Why aren't they at a university like Esther is? I'm not familiar with the education system in the UK, so this seems all strange and arcane to me. :) Love the comics!
Senior schools in the UK can run from ages 11-18 if they have a “sixth form” (ages 16-18). There were experiments with middle schools (9-13) in the 70s and 80s but there are less than 200 of these left in the country. I attended a middle school from 9-11 before moving to a school like the one in the comic and remember the shorter age range creating a much more pleasant environment. A traditional British secondary school has kids who still seem very small, alongside adults. I remember starting the second year and looking at the first years, they seemed so wee. Almost TOO WEE.
I was going to write a post about how this story was done at a tricky time for the comic, but then I realised - they’re all tricky times. The thing that makes Bad Mchinery challenging to work on is that it’s a hybrid daily strip and story-book, where the former is important only on the day of publication. The need for a satisfying unit is constantly at odds with creating a satisfying whole. Something that can eventually be read over a leisurely couple of hours is being drip-fed over half a year.
There have been points during the last couple of cases where people have said, “this one’s longer than normal, isn’t it?” And I turn to them with an ashen face and say, “no. There are a couple of months left.”
When I started writing The Case Of The Forked Road, I could see that the plot was complicated. I wanted room to keep on top of that plot as well as writing good dialogue, so I doubled the size of the strips.
And do you know what? It worked. After a few months, people found they were able to recall every character and detail perfectly, no matter how much time had passed. No one was confused. And drawing twice as much each day actually proved to be easier than drawing less! Who knew!
Now, what I am doing here is saying the opposite of what is true for comic effect. It was a difficult time. I find that a good indicator of chronic overwork is my sudden decision to take on even more work, which is probably why I reactivated my old strip, Bobbins two thirds of the way through the case.
Strange a decision as that was, it led me to some of the most satisfying comic-making of my career. When I was done with the long, long slog of The Forked Road, I felt like making one-off strips. This seemed better than nothing. After a couple of weeks, they’d started to turn into a story. After a couple of months, they’d been as well received as anything I’d done for a couple of years. And that made coming back to Bad Machinery harder.
Writing a school comic, term by term, means that the characters grow up fast. I never anticipated that the tone of the series would change so quickly. 11-year olds aren’t like 14 year-olds. They’re shorter, for one, and I’m sure a scientist could point to other differences using their expertise in the area. It’s a series where, if I’m true to myself, the later stories might not be appropriate for younger readers of the first story. I’m not sure that’s a sensible way to operate commercially, but it fascinates me and keeps me coming back.
I think it’s time to get into meatier stuff. Bad Machinery started out with a very pure, black and white morality, but things have to get greyer from here on out. It’s inevitable. There’s so much ground to cover that I don’t know when we’ll next see a mythical beast or a wormhole. But I am 100% committed to making sure that we all have a good time.
No particular order, no artist allowed more than once or in solo form where solo artist and band are virtually indistinguishable.
1 ALL SHOOK DOWN - The Replacements 2 MADE IN USA - Pizzicato 5 3 WHATEVER - Aimee Mann 4 COURT & SPARK - Joni Mitchell 5 WILD HONEY - The Beach Boys 6 SWOON - Prefab Sprout 7 SEA FROM SHORE - School Of Language 8 FINN BROTHERS - Finn Brothers 9 THE GLOW PT 2 - The Microphones 10 NOTORIOUS BYRD BROTHERS - The Byrds
11 LOLITA NATION - Game Theory 12 SEVEN SWANS - Sufjan Stevens 13 PUBLIC STRAIN - Women 14 THE NIGHTFLY - Donald Fagen 15 A SERIES OF SNEAKS - Spoon 16 CUPID & PSYCHE 85 - Scritti Politti 17 A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR - Todd Rundgren 18 BEFORE TODAY - Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti 19 TUSK - Fleetwood Mac 20 NIXON - Lambchop
21 WORKBOOK - Bob Mould 22 DOCUMENT - R.E.M. 23 (MUSIC FROM THE UNREALISED FILM SCRIPT) DUSK AT CUBIST CASTLE - Olivia Tremor Control 24 A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS - Vince Guaraldi 25 THE MEADOWLANDS - The Wrens 26 FAITHLESS STREET - Whiskeytown 27 STANDS FOR DECIBELS/REPERCUSSION - The dBs 28 THIRTEEN - Teenage Fanclub 29 CLEAR SPOT - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 30 PETER GABRIEL 2 (SCRATCH) - Peter Gabriel
31 GIDEON GAYE - High Llamas 32 ZAZU - Rosie Vela 33 KID A - Radiohead 34 SPILT MILK - Jellyfish 35 #1 RECORD/RADIO CITY - Big Star 36 EXILE IN GUYVILLE - Liz Phair 37 HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS - Cocteau Twins 38 JUMP - Van Dyke Parks 39 LULU - Trip Shakespeare 40 IT’S A SHAME ABOUT RAY - The Lemonheads
If you’re outside the US/Canada, you can get it from your local comic shop - if they don’t have it, ask them to order it for you. Any bookshop will be able to order it for you - its ISBN is 9781620101148 - it’s not in normal bookshops until March 12th.
In the UK, I recommend the following stores: Travelling Man (Leeds, Manchester), Page 45 (Nottingham), Gosh! Comics and Orbital (London), Dave’s Comics (Brighton).
Most importantly of all, tell your friends, and hopefully these collections will keep coming.
From long-running soap operas to comedy-drama slices of life to daily gag strips, the digital comics scene has exploded over the last decade and readers have never had more options. Feeling overwhelmed? Joe Stando is here to take you on an expedition through the webcomics wilderness and show you the best specimens in our monthly Deadshirt Webcomics Field Guide.
Hello John, I was just curious if you would consider Shelly to be (aromantic) asexual? As we've seen recently, and other times that Shelly certainly partakes in the physical act of love from time to time, but she never seems to be able to be romantically attached to anyone for very long (unless Tim is indeed "the one." or Black Metal Simon was).
I think the most “romantic” people are the ones who have the hardest time finding love at all. To me, Shelley is simply walking the length of the counter before making her selection.
Hi, with Bad Machinery book 2 out next month, will it be available in Hardcover again and if so, will there a way to order them from within the UK (as opposed to via Topcato)? Thanks.
It will be available in hardcover, but again only from Topatoco or directly from Oni. I will have some at any UK convention I attend by car (while stocks last) because, and sorry to let light in upon magic here, they weigh a ton.