Sunday, 25 September 2016

Submission Guidelines

 We're looking for scripts of one to four pages. They must revolve around the theme of the issue for which you're submitting (current theme is "Psychedelic Wizards & Sorcery"). The script cannot be set in a franchised universe or be a spin-off from one of your own works. Stand alone themed stories only and the documents sent must be editable formats (.doc/.rtf). CURRENT DEADLINE NOVEMBER 1st 2016.

Send all scripts to -

Written by Co-Editor Geoffery Crescent

In this case Donny Don't is not just an obscure reference to the Simpsons, he's the embodiment of all my pet peeves when it comes to comic scripts.

We get to read a lot of scripts - which largely vary in quality. I'm not about to go naming and shaming here, but what I am going to do is give you a handy list of hints and things to observe next time you fancy giving us (or anyone else for that matter) a comic script.  It's by no means exhaustive, and if you fancy arguing with me about some of them, well then by all means bring it on!  It's just that sometimes I get tired of seeing the same mistakes repeated over and over again - so I thought I'd compile this list to help out potential writers,

This is definitely a Donny Don't

1) Spelling and Grammar

This might sound pretty obvious, but the amount of scripts we get that are riddled with typos is ridiculous. Now, I know, everyone makes a typo once in a while. Especially the sort that are actual words, not just the one you intended, which Word sometimes doesn't pick up (I myself went through a phase of writing 'foe' when I meant 'for,' to the extent I had autocorrect switch it back whenever I typed it).  But most of the time it's just big, old fashioned spelling mistakes, underlined on my page in sexy red.  Why haven't YOU picked up on these eh?  If it's because you're using a word processing programme without a spell-checker, then change it, change it now.  If it's because you've been using caps lock for your dialogue, check it more thoroughly.  If it's because you haven't proof-read it, that tells us that you're too lazy to read it through. I'll get on to proofreading a bit later but if you can't be bothered to check your script for errors, then why should I?  It's as simple as, we care about the comic and we need to know you care about it as well!

Grammar is even more of a problem.  If you struggle with grammar then the Oatmeal has some wonderful cartoons which clear up issues a lot better than I ever could.

My two key rules are, if in doubt, leave it out (especially semi-colons which are, as the Oatmeal rightfully states, the most feared punctuation on Earth.) AND if in doubt, sound it out.  I'm talking especially about its and it's, the two most popular culprits.  Its shows possession, it's stands for it is.  If you can replace it's with it is and it still makes sense, you've got the right one.  This poster sums it up better, if a little swearier...


Top Tip!  If you're dyslexic or English isn't your first language, tell us so in the submission. It's better than having us assume the worst.

2) Referencing Things

Comic editors!  We're all a bunch of nerds right?  We all spend our days playing Final Fantastico Five and Bioshops!  Getting the impression that I'm not a gamer?  Good.  Think about that.

If you're going to describe something, describe it.  Use those lovely adjectives, get your creative juices flowing and tell us how you want something to look.   Describing an alien as being, 'like Pikachu, but blue,' is not only lazy, it's assuming the artist has an in-depth knowledge of a Japanese gaming franchise to the point that they can draw one of the characters from memory.  Or perhaps they don't have that knowledge, they'll have to go and search for it, wasting valuable time when they could have been drawing.  Not only that, but if I don't have intimate knowledge of whatever franchise you've chosen to imitate,  I won't know whether or not I've gotten the right idea! Of course, if you'd described the alien as, 'a small mouse like creature with tall, pointed ears and blue fur,' then the artist has more room to move. 

If a character genuinely looks like, or IS a celebrity or franchised character then it's fine to describe them like it, but it's always best to assume ignorance on the part of your editor and artist.  Just because you know Master Chief's back story, doesn't mean we all do.  

I have no idea what this is

3) Reading the brief

For flip's sake. Read the brief.  If the brief asks for a four page story, stand-alone story about vegetables then the editor will not want to see:

 'Dear Editor.  Please find attached a copy of 'Banana Man verses the killer Oranges'  It's a seven page script that I spun off from my own series of epic novels, 'Agent Orange and the Orange People.'

Ahem, yes. Clearly the writer has not read the brief.  Read it at least twice before you write, and then once again at the end, just to make sure. We're a themed anthology so the current theme must be adhered to!

Oh - and just because four is the maximum number of pages doesn't mean you HAVE to submit a four pager - !

4) Proofread

Yes, I know it sounds simple, but proofread the BALLS off of your script!  And once you've read it forwards, read it backwards, you can often pick up on more spelling mistakes that way.  And then get a friend to read it (if you've not got one handy, read it out loud).  Dialogue is a tricky thing to get right, and reading it aloud helps you to see if it sounds natural.  Things that look great on a page can often sound stilted when read aloud.  If you're too embarrassed to show it to a friend, then you shouldn't be showing it to an editor.  Be proud of your writing!

Top Tip: After I've written something I like to leave it a day or two before I edit it.  Otherwise I find it's too fresh in my mind and I can't spot as many mistakes. 

5) Don't get shitty and don't be precious.

A wise man once said, if I may paraphrase: to get anywhere in comics you've got to be good or you've got to be nice.  I'll happily take nice over good any day.  The most mediocre of scripts can be polished into a shining gem with a little co-operation between writer and editor. And the most brilliant of scripts can be thrown into disarray when a writer gets up the pole because you've asked them to tweak a little dialogue. Even worse is the writer who agrees to make the changes, but then doesn't, hoping you won't notice. Worse still is the writer who refuses to speak to you at all when you raise concerns about the script.

It's happened.

If we ask you to make changes, it's not because we hate you, or your ideas or we think you're a bad writer.  It's because the script isn't quite right yet, but we think you can tweak it until it is.  Or because it's not right at all (potentially because you've not followed the brief) but we still want you to write for us, just something a little different. Getting angry and refusing to make changes serves no purpose but for us to consider not working with you at all.  You reap what you sow with this one.

6) Camera angles and film script talk

This may be one of my more personal bug bears, but I know a fair few editors who get irritated by it. 
" Pan across.  Beat.  Cut to. "  All phrases that work fine in a film script, but you're not writing on of those, are ye?  I don't need beats between dialogue, just a hard return to indicate a space. 

Top Tip: If in doubt, find a comic script sample online to copy.  There are plenty floating around, but the sample Future Shocks from 2000AD are a good place to start

7)  Expressions

'The man has a look on his face of shock mingled with awe and anguish, his eyes betraying a slight joy whilst still looking scared'

Keep expressions simple.  Try it out on your own face before writing it down; if you can't manage an expression of happy disgust, chances are an artist won't be able to draw it either.  And keep it to one expression per panel; someone can't change expression on a static page.

8) Too many dicks on the dance floor

This can take one of two forms.  The first is summarised best by this quote from the 2000AD submission page, 'Dredd leaps out of the window and grabs onto the fire-escape, swings up onto the roof and fires his Lawgiver.'  Now, that's about three panel's worth of actions in one!  Comics are static, and characters can't do too many things at once.

The second form this takes is overcrowding.  Too many captions.  Too much dialogue.  Too many panels per page.  Too much action crowded into a single panel; montage panels are the main culprit here.  Try and visualise how an artist and letterer is going to cram that much stuff in!  If you can't see how it would work, it probably won't.  Don't leave it to the artist to 'sort it out.'  It's your job to write a doable script, not their job to fix all your mistakes.

Top Tip: Try drawing raw rough layouts for your comic pages.  Even if you can only draw stick figures like me, it does sometimes help to see when panels are overcrowded and whether or not dialogue will fit.

9) Captions

Used in moderation they can work, but approach with caution!  Do you need a caption to tell the reader it's midnight, or would it be better to have the artist draw a nice full moon?  Is the time even really that relevant to the story?  If the character is thinking aloud, why do we need captions as well as speech bubbles?  And if you've got two sets of captions for two different things, how is the reader going to tell them apart?  Think before you caption!

10) Inside jokes

Now THIS is my most hated thing in comics.  It would be no exaggeration to say that whenever I read this in a script I want to send it back to the writer and refuse to read it until they edit them out.  What I'm talking about it this:

Panel Two:

A collection of large palm trees with giant antennae attached to their leaves are attacking a small, shrivelled looking man who is waving a giant purple tennis racket at them.  (Ho ho, bet you're hating me right now aren't you? >_>)

Damn straight I'm hating you right now.  Stop trying to crack 'witty' asides and tell a damned story!  Sad fact of the matter is I tend to find the more inside jokes to the artist/editor per script, the worse the script actually is. 

And finally 11) Keep it simple, stupid! 

Pretentious wordy dialogue. Lengthy descriptions of a character's left elbow.  A five page story that could be told as a one pager.  When writing scripts, especially short ones, simplicity is key.  When you're describing something, don't tell an artist what could or might go in a scene.  Tell them what will be in the scene.  It avoids any unnecessary confusion on the part of the artist over what to draw and it streamlines the script.  And remember, things which might sound great in a story or novel, "the boy's coat had been handed down to him by his late father and was, as such, a little large on him," for example aren't needed unless the fact the coat is his father's is relevant in the script.  Just saying the coat looks big on him is fine.  

I'm going to end this with a bit of a confession.  I'm not claiming to be a perfect writer, or even a particularly good one.  I'm sure that as you read through this you found numerous spelling and grammatical errors, and bristled at the thought of some small press editor telling you how to write better.  I edit scripts partly because I enjoy it, but also because it helps to inform my own writing.  At one time or another I've broken all of these rules, but I've learned from my mistakes.  When I was rejected by editors, I looked at the things I did wrong and started again.

A few years ago I applied to be in a short story anthology about monster hunting.  Now, to my credit the submission guidelines DID say we could invent our own monster, but what they were really after was a sort gung-ho werewolf or abominable snowman slaying adventure.  Instead your intrepid blogger decided to do a spin-off story set in her own universe featuring her own creature.  Who wasn't a monster.  In fact it was less of a story, more of an exercise in what sort of religion my  universe would have. Needless to say it got rejected.  Partly because it was shit, but mostly because I didn't follow the brief.  But the reason I feel qualified to write a blog about this is because I didn't e-mail the editor with a long rant about why he should have taken my story, I didn't throw down my proverbial quill pen and refuse to write ever again and I didn't take it as a personal insult that he didn't like my story.  Following my rules might not get you the perfect script, but it might help you understand why you've been rejected, and how to improve for the next time.  And there should always be a next time :)


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Shifting Deadlines, Shifting Porcupines


Spiky git.

Greetings Cosmonauts,

It's been a busy spring in Psychedelic heights and our time-travel-free WILD WEST ISSUE is shaping up nicely. However - we've decided to push it's debut back til November's Thought Bubble event to give us a bit of indulgent extra time to sand off its splintery edges and ... another wood-based metaphor.

We've also decided to keep accepting scripts for our WIZARDS issue until then as well - so KEEP THEM COMING we've had an amazing haul so far! Submission guidelines here.

Our time-travelly issues are still available through Comicsy though - and being time travel they are ALWAYS RELEVANT. Take a gander thisaway.

We've been so inactive recently that we've managed only this single teaser since March but it's a good'un - for Issue 5's Making the Deal:

By top comedy writer Arron Ferguson and design legend Dunk Nimmo. You can see the other issue teasers here and purchase no. 5 here.

...and finally it was last week I was honoured to be asked by Mr John Freeman of Down the Tubes to write a tribute to one of contributors Stephen Prestwood who suddenly and shockingly died last month. You can read the piece here - it was an amazing task tracking down his collaborators who were unanimous in their praise for a small press stalwart and a truly inspiring man. For us he drew Michael Norwitz's Mackerelman Meets the Lady of the Lake in Issue 4 and solely created The Journey for the digital edition of Issue 1. Such a keen iPad convert he had become in recent years that he drew his strips directly onto it, I seem to remember it took him moments! As a consequence the dpi wasn't suitable for print, an issue that arose with Mackerelman which he then re-drew physically and mailed to me! Again - in barely any time at all. The speed of it wasn't necessarily what was awe-inspiring but the patience, the confidence, the energy of him.

Here then, The Journey:

As I reflected on Facebook only an hour or so after I heard the terrible news - he did everything the knight in the story did not. Through his art and the enthusiastic testimony of his friends we know that he embraced every moment, and therein lies the meaning of life.

Small press comics won't be the same without him - keep an eye on our self published allies Paragon and El Bigote who are both planning something remarkable in his honour.

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Psychedelic Journal of the Wild West

Proud to reveal the logo for The Psychedelic Journal of the Wild West debuting this August at the Bristol Comics Expo. Over the past few months Geoffery and I have been hacking through the submissions pile and lassoing artists for this special one-off cowboytastic issue of one-off western tales and I can promise you this: IT'S GOING TO BE BONKERS.

We'll still be selling the few issues of Time Travel we have left up til then - next month at the Birmingham Comics Festival for example. Not only that but we've just had our table at this year's Thought Bubble confirmed - we'll be sharing with small press legends FUTUREQUAKE PRESS.

Here's a little contributors spotlight on Andrew Scaife - above a new teaser for his story with Chris Cosentino in Issue 5 (limited issues still available here) and below an image from his Issue 6 story with Alistair McLean which the talented Mr Scaife shared on his Tumblr.

Preview for a comic I drew in the 6th and last Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel. Script by Alistair McLeanYou can buy it here and like it on Facebook here.

If pixel art, glorious pop culture references and 90s Lucasarts point & clicks are your bag then you'll possibly have already seen Andrew's amazing Buffy scenes which went viral the other year. Well these (and other) incredible pixel pieces will soon be available in a handsome hardback - watch his Point + Click Facebook Page for progress!

Finally back in the realms of the journal WE ARE CURRENTLY ACCEPTING SCRIPTS for our future 'Wizards & Sorcery' issue. All details as well as a pretty comprehensive guideline from co-editor Geoffery are available here!

Monday, 21 December 2015

'Tis the Season

...for a grand holiday Quantum Capybara! What is a QC? BEHOLD... our latest issue will lay all your doubts to rest!

It's available right now to buy on our Comicsy shop and it'd make a great early January present for any fan of ants, pipes, or time travel. January is also the month that Father Christmas relegates present-delivery to colossal robot spheres that destroy everything they roll over so you'll get to witness that devastating spectacle. Bear witness also to our astonishing new cover by former 2000 AD design droid Pye Parr.

Another festive treat (from the end of last month, anyway) is the full first page of "Money Never Weeps" from issue five by top small press writer Derek Hamill and verifiable artgod David Frankum - shared on the glorious Mr Frankum's personal blog

Two new teasers for you as well from our Fifth Issue (still on sale in our shop) - the first from an excellent four-pager by newcomer River Apparicio and drawn by irrepressible up-and-comer Jim Lavery whose strong cartoony stylings will likely be gracing many a mainstream comic in the not-too-distant future!

The second is from the back-cover single pager written by co-editor Lady Geoffery Crescent and drawn by Journal favourite, musician and amazing artist Jake Rowlinson. It's dark - it's wordless - it's wonderful. 

From L-R: Lady Geoffery Crescent, Editor O, Nich Angell, James Stayte, Jon Lock & Lucy Brown (missing: Big Punch's Alice White)
Finally a holiday hoot for our brilliant Big Punch tablemates at this year's Thought Bubble - an utterly fantastic year for it and what fantabulous company!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Teasers, Themes, Magazines and Capybaras


We speak to you now in an utter flux - we have been de-homed by an infestation the likes of which we've never seen. These infernal things...

The Quantum Capybaras ... are a scourge the likes of which we've never encountered. The full details of our quarrels with these beasts are to be had in the final issue of The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel which will be out in only a few weeks at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds and then Comicsy shortly thereafter. We'll be sharing a table with the friendly faces of Big Punch Studios and remain cautiously optimistic that our infestation doesn't become theirs...

We're still almost hilariously behind on one-panel teasers for our past issues - and above here are the 'latest' two from Issue 4 (we've still got some physical copies left but BARELY ANY on our Comicsy shop).
Firstly "The Warning" - a hilarious one pager from comics maniac Stu Perrins drawn by Bristol designer and awesome man Aidan Barnard (previously having done "The Legend of Robot Man" in Time Travel issue 1 written by Arron Ferguson). 
Secondly "What Are the Odds" a haunting four pager by Paul Bradford illustrated by Joe Palmer both of whom were completely new to the Journal at the time!

The other big news recently has been our astonishing inclusion in Future Publishing's "Comic Heroes" - many thanks to the multitalented Mike Garley (his manly hand pictured above)! Horror fans would do well to investigate his currently-running Kill Screen Kickstarter. "A strong example of self-published comics at their most slick and exciting" not MY words but... oh wait they are my words. Either way - do pick up Comic Heroes as if this glorious feature is anything to go by it's a serious mag to watch. Independent comics forever! 


So the deadline for scripts for Wild West themed issue ARE NOW CLOSED but we are willing still to accept one or two pagers until December 1st. As for four pager scripts the new theme (for 2017) is WIZARDS. Think classical fantasy but with a psychedelic twist - self contained stories only full details and guidelines here.

The final deadline for these scripts is September 1st 2016 so you've got a time! Spread the word!!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Great HQ Shake-Up of 2015


To those waiting on script feedback and correspondence from us HOLD ON - Geoffery and I have just moved into a swanky new HQ structure. It's a hell of a thing. More... mushroom than building... it's hard to describe. But keep an eye out for a likeness of the new digs in future publications. Speaking of:


(edit: This is NOT the final art deadline for the Wild West issue, that is in 2016)

This does NOT count any edits that are done to submissions - so if you've got a script under consideration or mid-editing it's not in jeopardy. IF YE ARE ON THE CUSP of submitting then DO IT. DO IT NOW. Details here.

After this we will be accepting scripts for our 2017 issue only - the theme will be announced on September 1st on our FB and Twitter and then here. Then into the garden for the snakes alone to hear.

Image result for melksham comic con 2015

Next weekend is the wonderful Melksham Comic Con - a convention we always love doing and is this year sure to be an utter blast!

We were also treated in the last two months to some work-in-progress stuff from the last issue of the Time Travel Journal - notably from the brilliant Matt Herbert, whose art on a script from the glorious J.S. Adams is breathtaking.

Also in: two teasers from Issue 4 (still available to buy here - and there AREN'T MANY COPIES) - the first is "Time for Justice" a twisted tale about a time travel game show by Bristolian and New Scientist writer Arran Frood and painted by the superlative Bruno Stahl (whose glorious looking new book "The Hans" is on sale NOW) .
The second is "The Universal Market" - a glimpse at a shopping trip through time by whirling comics dervish Blas Bigatti and drawn by small press god David Broughton!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Moon in June


Let me lay it on you - there's sand everywhere here. We think it's being dumped here from next year. We're not sure what happens exactly that creates so much bloody sand but hey, we clearly decided to funnel it back in time a few months so that we don't have to deal with it. But we do have to deal with it and it's probably our annoyance at ourselves that makes us do it in the first place. Y'dig? Either way - it's not cool daddio.

Women Write About Comics

However in news of things that ARE cool - our assistant editor Lady Geoffery "Spelling Is Important" Crescent did an interview with Women Who Write Comics about her editing process. Which you can read here.

We got a mention in David Hailwood's latest round-up of his doings which includes a teaser image of his story in Issue 5 "Everlasting Peace" with Tony Suleri - you can get issue 5 here!

Embedded image permalink

...and a glimpse forward in time to our last time travel issue from the twitter of artist Trystan Mitchell - the story "Timepoint" is written by Chris Redfern and you'll find out more about it when we d├ębut at Thought Bubble in November!

Above there is two more teasers for our fourth issue available to buy here - the first is for "The Sleep House" an unsettling tale of a bleak future written by Shaun Avery (formerly of "Timepiece" in Issue 3 and due to appear in our last issue) and drawn by small press legend Chris Askham whose dark monochrome stylings also graced zombie story "Source of Infection" in Issue 1!

The second teaser is for the back-of-the-issue single-pager "Thyme Travel" as always written by co-editor Lady Geoffery Crescent and drawn by the everglorious Gavin Mitchell of Stiffs and Santa Claus vs the Nazis fame.