Scrapbook page 113


Original watercolour image for the online story The Concuspidor & the Grand Wizard of Many Things. This is the scene where Magentabeard the pirate boards the stolen lemon boat, and captures the eponymous Concuspidor, his lackey Cog, and Phlegm the pelican.

A pirate chief awakes them with
The sharp end of his cutlass.
He’d hoped they might
Put up a fight
But they turn out to be gutless.

The Concuspidor & The Grand Wizard of Many Things ran over six months in 1995. In total there were 48 full-size A4 illustrations like this in the story. That’s a lot of drawing. Although the complete storyboard was finished (with every scene pencil-sketched out in its entirety) before the project began, there was a lot to do so I was rarely a week or more ahead of the story while it was running. The line-art was done with Rotring Rapidograph pens on marker pad (over pencil character sketches on layout sheet) using a wood-and-perspex lightbox my brother made for me, with an angle-poise lamp shining down onto a sheet of tin foil underneath as its ambient light source, in a room with the curtains pulled to make it bright enough to work. I then took the line-art to the copy shop 8 miles away and copied it onto cartridge paper for colouring. This was partly to minimise the risk of disaster ruining the original line-art in a deadline-fraught situation, but also because any paper that took the watercolours well enough was too thick to easily trace through on the lightbox. For the colouring, I used watercolour pencils extensively (and some coloured pencils), with watercolour paint for the block areas (the former suited my crosshatch style of working very well, but the latter nearly always resulted in a look I was unhappy with but lacked the time or skill to sort out).

The Concuspidor was the first webcomic in the UK; a few other cartoonists were starting to put work online, but were really just using the web as a distribution mechanism rather than a new medium, and not doing anything that was specifically digital. The Concuspidor’s readers had to interact with each illustration, in their own way and order, by clicking on characters in the illustrations (that is, using HTML’s image maps... which in those days were implemented server-side).

The Concuspidor went live on the Beholder website in June 1995 and, over two decades later and counting, is still online here as one of the earliest examples of illustrated on-line storytelling.